Two important dates are nearing for veterans who have earned benefits and health care through the federal PACT Act, and VA officials are encouraging those vets to apply now.
While there is no deadline for veterans to register for financial compensation provided through the act, those who file by Aug. 9 may receive benefits backdated to Aug. 10, 2022, when the legislation took effect.
That is significant since veterans that the VA rules to be 100% disabled due to service-connected health issues received an average of about $36,000 annually, according to Pam Smith, chief of the central business office of the Lebanon VA Medical Center.
Those veterans who qualify for retroactive compensation potentially open themselves up to that type of payment, or a lesser amount if they’re ruled to be partially disabled, she said.
Even those who don’t apply by Aug. 9 can qualify for benefits backdated to Aug. 10, 2022, if they submit an intent to file for compensation, said Douglas A. Etter, chief communication officer for the Lebanon VA.
The other meaningful date for veterans is Sept. 30 when the eligibility window closes for those seeking to take advantage of the PACT Act’s one-year special health care enrollment period for post-Sept. 11 combat vets, Smith said.
Previously combat veterans discharged after Sept. 11, 2001, had five years to register for VA health care, but the PACT Act extended that period to 10 years and also gave veterans who previously did not enroll within that five-year timeframe a grace period that expires Oct. 1.
The PACT Act is the one of the nation’s largest ever expansions of veteran health care and benefits, and earlier this year VA Secretary Denis McDonough said he believes a little over 6.2 million veterans will qualify for benefits from the legislation if they apply.
The law helps veterans who while serving were exposed to toxic substances — including burn pits or Agent Orange — to get compensation and VA medical care, and expanded eligibility for those deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and surrounding areas.
The law added more than 20 new presumptive conditions for toxic exposures; added more presumptive locations for Agent Orange and radiation exposure; provided toxic exposure screenings to every veteran enrolled in VA health care; and helped the VA improve research, staff education and treatment related to toxic exposures, Etter said.
More than 40,000 veterans in Pennsylvania have applied to the VA since the PACT Act was approved, a number boosted in part because PennDOT sent notices to all drivers possessing veteran’s drivers licenses, IDs and license plates that encouraged them to register, Etter said.
Still, millions of veterans nationwide have yet to file claims related to the PACT Act, the VA says.
To learn more, visit va.gov/pact, call the VA at 1-800-MY-VA-411, or call the VA’s regional benefits administration office at 1-800-827-1000.
The Lebanon VA covers nine counties — Berks, Schuylkill, Lebanon, Lancaster, Dauphin, Perry, Cumberland, Adams, and York. Veterans seeking to enroll for health care there can call the facility at 717-272-6621, ext. 6000. Calls will be returned in the order they were received.
Berks veterans seeking help with benefits questions can contact the county’s veterans affairs office at 610-378-5601.
Source: Berkshire mont