Eligible combat veterans have until the end of September to take advantage of a special health care enrollment period provided in the federal PACT Act, and VA officials are encouraging them to apply.
Veterans who deployed to a combat zone, never enrolled in VA health care, and left active duty between Sept. 11, 2001, and Oct. 1, 2013, are eligible under the legislation. This special enrollment period gives veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones an opportunity to enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits.
Previously combat veterans discharged after Sept. 11 had five years to register for VA health care, but the legislation extended that period to 10 years and also gave veterans who previously did not enroll within that five-year timeframe the grace period that expires Oct. 1.
Therefore combat veterans discharged after Oct. 1, 2013, are also eligible to apply until they reach that 10-year mark.
“Even if you don’t need this care now, you may need it in the future – and once you’re in, you have access for life,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a press release.
The PACT Act is the one of the nation’s largest ever expansions of veteran health care and benefits, and VA officials believe 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.
Since President Biden signed the PACT Act into law, more than 344,000 veterans have enrolled in VA health care and more than 4.2 million enrolled veterans have been screened for toxic exposures. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 10,257 veterans have received PACT Act benefits and more than 12,882 veterans have enrolled in VA care.
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.
Berks veterans seeking help with benefits questions can contact the county’s veterans affairs office at 610-378-5601.
Source: Berkshire mont