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In what is being described as one of the largest benefit expansions in the history of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the PACT Act will provide additional benefits and health services to more than 5 million Vietnam, Gulf War, post-9/11 eligible veterans. Visit va.gov/PACT to learn more.
VA HEALTH CARE ENROLLMENT PERIOD EXPANDED
Post 9/11 and Combat Veterans:
May enroll within 10 years of their discharge date instead of five. For other veterans, a one-year open enrollment period is available to join VA healthcare without having to demonstrate a service-connected disability.
Veterans Discharged Before October 1, 2013:
Those who meet the requirements listed below can apply and receive care during a year-long special enrollment period beginning October 1, 2022.
- Veterans must been on active-duty during a theater of combat operations that include: A period of war or an operation after the Persian Gulf War, or Combat service against a hostile force after November 11, 1998.
- A veteran must have been discharged or released between September 11, 2001, and October 1, 2013, and
- The veteran has not enrolled in VA health care before.
VA encourages eligible veterans to apply during the 1-year period to receive any urgent care they might need now or in the future. Enrollment is free and VA health care may be free, too.
ADDITIONAL TOXIC EXPOSURE AND ILLNESS HEALTH COVERAGE, TREATMENT AND PATIENT OUTREACH
- 20 more illnesses are now eligible for disability benefits as a result of exposure to burn pits and other toxins: meaning veterans will not have to prove that their service caused their condition(s).
- This screening can help the paperwork required and need for advisability exam before being granted access to health care and compensation. The list includes 11 respiratory related conditions and several forms of cancer.
How These PACT Act Benefits May Affect You
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, named after a decorated combat medic who died from a rare form of lung cancer, specifically addresses veterans with toxic exposures during the Vietnam, Gulf War and post 9/11 eras.
WHAT DOES THE NEW PROGRAM MEAN FOR VIETNAM-ERA VETERANS?
- Veterans who served at an additional five locations are now assumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they served during specified dates.
- Veterans who were a part of response efforts in three locations are now assumed to have been exposed to radiation if they served during specific dates.
IMPACT ON GULF WAR AND POST-9/11 VETERANS
- Other conditions presumed to be service connected include: Asthma diagnosed after service; chronic bronchitis, COPD, rhinitis, sinusitis; constrictive or obliterative bronchiolitis; and emphysema.
- Post-9/11 veterans who served in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan, Yemen — and any airspace above these locations – are presumed to have been exposed to burn pit toxins.
- Gulf War and post-9/11 era veterans who served in these locations are presumed to have been exposed to burn pits: Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the UAE — and any airspace above these countries.
WHAT IS AVAILABLE TO MILITARY FAMILIES?
- A one-time accrued benefits payment: va.gov/resources/evidence-to-support-va-pensiondic-or-accrued-benefits-claims
- Health care through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA): va.gov/health-care/family-caregiverbenefits/champva
- A burial allowance for help with funeral or burial costs for qualifying spouses, partners or children.
GETTING BENEFITS: HOW TO FILE A CLAIM
- Claims for conditions that were denied in the past but are now considered presumptive should be filed through a supplemental claim: va.gov/decision-reviews/supplemental-claim
- Full details and eligibility information related to the PACT Act can be found at va.gov/PACT, by calling 800-MyVA411 (698-2411) or by visiting a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) regional office. Find one here: benefits.va.gov/benefits/offices.asp
HEALTH BENEFITS NAVIGATOR
For more information about how to access veteran and military health care benefits, check out AARP’s Veterans and Military Families Health Benefits Navigator at aarp.org/vetshealthnavigator.