Veteran services

PACT Law Pass, Washington County Veterans Services Responds

The PACT Act extends benefits and health care to veterans who were exposed to outdoor burns in Southwest Asia.

ARKANSAS, USA — With the passage of the PACT Act last week, veterans have questions. Today, Washington County Veterans Services answered some of them.

Veterans applying for health care benefits are urged to file their claims as soon as possible.

The Pact Act extends VA health care and benefits to veterans exposed to fireplaces and other toxic substances. The law will extend health care to Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 veterans. It also adds over 20 new presumptive conditions and more presumptive exposure locations for Agent Orange and Radiation.

The law, fully named The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, is likely the biggest expansion of health care and benefits in history, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Fighters.

The PACT Act adds additional criteria that would expand veterans’ eligibility to file a disability compensation claim:

  • Expands and expands VA health care eligibility for substance-exposed veterans and veterans of Vietnam, the Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
  • Adds over 20 new presumptive conditions for fire pits and other toxic exposures
  • Adds more suspected exposure locations for Agent Orange and Radiation
  • Requires VA to provide toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA healthcare
  • Helps improve research, staff training and treatment related to toxic exposures

Presumptive conditions are those that are automatically assumed to have been caused by a veteran’s service.

Based on the PACT Act, the US Department of Veterans Affairs added more than 20 presumptive conditions that would expand benefits for veterans who served in the Gulf War and veterans after 9/11.

Some of these conditions include cancers such as brain and kidney cancer as well as other diseases.

New presumptive conditions were also added that would expand benefits for Vietnam War veterans.

A full list of conditions that were added when the PACT Act was passed can be viewed here.

Filing a disability claim for a new presumptive condition

For veterans who have not filed a claim for a suspected condition, there are options to do so online, by mail, or in person with a trained professional.

Washington County Veterans Services Director Ben Dykes says there are three important items to submit when filing:

  • Your DD214
  • A diagnosis from your doctor
  • More proof of your condition

“It’s almost like a court case, you know how to set up a case. In court, you must have evidence, you must have what. You are the who, but you have to have the what, when and why to build this case and file a successful claim with the VA,” Dykes said.

Dykes urges veterans to file their applications as soon as possible with these criteria, so they can be processed quickly and accepted.

“If you know a veteran who has something like this, encourage them to come talk to us. If you know a veteran’s surviving spouse, encourage them to come talk to us, especially if you think it’s an illness they may be related to,” Dykes said.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) explains more steps in filing a disability claim on their website.

PACT-related benefits will be processed from January 2023, according to the VA. All veterans and survivors are encouraged to apply for benefits now. This will help prevent the backdating of benefits that would otherwise occur if claims were filed next year.

To file a claim or learn more about the PACT Act, visit the US Department of Veterans Affairs website.

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