Understanding the PACT Act: Benefits and Eligibility for Veterans

Updated: February 28, 2024
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    The Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, commonly referred to as the PACT Act, was signed into law in 2022. It grants permanent VA healthcare eligibility to more than 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans.

    It declared 24 presumptive conditions tied to toxic exposure and established 31 new VA healthcare facilities while also granting VA health enrollment eligibility to any veteran who deployed to some regions of known exposure during service.

    Overview of the PACT Act

    The PACT Act expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. It added several presumptive health conditions caused by exposure to these types of substances.

    Expanding presumptive conditions is a critical part of the PACT Act. Normally, to receive benefits, a veteran must connect their disability and show it was related to military service. A presumptive condition removes that added level of proof and assumes that your service caused your condition. With this in place, a veteran only needs to meet the service requirements for the presumption.

    For more information on the types of exposures and presumptive conditions, go here.

    The PACT Act linked several medical conditions due to toxins common during specific eras or circumstances of military service.

    Specifically, it expands and extends eligibility to VA health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras.

    The PACT Act also requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care. This information is used to spot and treat health issues as early as possible while helping VA staff improve research, education, and treatment related to toxic exposures.

    Service members or Veterans who served in the above-listed wars, or were trained or stationed at installations linked to toxic chemical exposure or storage, will be eligible to the expanded VA healthcare beginning on March 5, 2024.

    “With this expansion, VA can care for all Veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, or any other combat zone after 9/11. We can also care for Veterans who never deployed but were exposed to toxins or hazards while training or on active duty here at home – by working with chemicals, pesticides, lead, asbestos, certain paints, nuclear weapons, x-rays, and more. We want to bring all of these Veterans to VA for the care they’ve earned and deserve,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal, M.D.

    PACT Act Compensation & Benefits for Veterans

    Veterans who already have a partial disability rating may be able to get a higher rating because more conditions are now covered under the PACT Act.

    The VA will not look at other disability-related claims, so no worry applying under the PACT Act could reduce benefits.

    Veterans with a 100% rating should also file a PACT Act claim if they have a condition now covered under it. This may result in certain added benefits for veterans and family members in the future. For example, veterans may now qualify for aid and attendance benefits for everyday living that they didn’t qualify for before.

    Surviving family members who already receive VA survivor’s pension benefits could get added Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits if their service member died of a newly presumptive condition. Survivors should file a new DIC claim if they think they qualify now, even if the VA denied their claim in the past.

    Eligibility Criteria for the PACT Act

    To get a VA disability rating, your disability must connect to your military service. In some cases, you’ll need to prove that connection. However, the VA automatically presumes that your service caused your condition for some conditions. These are known as “presumptive conditions.”

    Presumptive conditions are established by law or regulation. If you have a presumptive condition, you only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.

    We consider a condition presumptive when it’s established by law or regulation.

    The PACT Act added more than 20 burn pit and other toxic exposure presumptive conditions, expanding benefits for the Gulf War era and post-9/11 veterans.

    These cancers are now presumptive:

    • Brain cancer
    • Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
    • Glioblastoma
    • Head cancer of any type
    • Kidney cancer
    • Lymphoma of any type
    • Melanoma
    • Neck cancer of any type
    • Pancreatic cancer
    • Reproductive cancer of any type
    • Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type

    These illnesses are now presumptive:

    • Asthma that was diagnosed after service
    • Chronic bronchitis
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Chronic rhinitis
    • Chronic sinusitis
    • Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
    • Emphysema
    • Granulomatous disease
    • Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
    • Pleuritis
    • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Sarcoidosis

    If you don’t have any of these presumptive conditions, you can still qualify for VA benefits, but you’ll need added documentation to prove your case.

    You can learn more about hazardous materials presumptive conditions on the VA website.

    Filing a PACT Act Claim: How to Apply for Benefits

    Veterans and survivors can file claims for all PACT Act presumptive conditions immediately. The lower burden of proof makes the process easier because the presumptive connection means a claimant only needs to show service in a certain location, at a certain time, and with a diagnosis of one of those presumptive disabilities.

    You can apply several ways.

    Apply online. Click into the VA disability compensation form, select “sign in to start your application,” and “create an account,” or log on with your My HealtheVet, DS Logon, ID.me, or LOGIN.GOV accounts.

    Call the VA toll-free hotline at 877-222-8387, M-F, 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET.

    Mail a completed, signed Application for Health Benefits (VA Form 10-10EZ).

    Bring a completed, signed VA Form 10-10EZ to your nearest medical center or clinicor get help through your state’s Department of Veterans Affairs Service Officer.

    If you’re unsure about filing a claim, you can submit an intent to file. This may help you qualify for retroactive benefits and payments by logging a potential start date for your benefits.

    Also, there is no deadline to apply for PACT Act benefits.

    If you previously filed a claim but the VA denied it and your condition is now covered under the PACT Act, you can submit a Supplemental Claim.

    Toxic Exposure Screenings

    As part of your filing process, you can receive toxic exposure screenings at VA health facilities nationwide. Every veteran enrolled in VA health care will receive an initial screening and a follow-up at least once every five years.

    However, screening is not required to start the PACT Act-related benefits process.

    A screening helps identify and document any potential toxins exposure during military service. That makes it easier to get an early diagnosis and ongoing care for any future health issues.

    The screening will ask you if you think you were exposed to any of these hazards while serving:

    • Open burn pits and other airborne hazards
    • Gulf War-related exposures
    • Agent Orange
    • Radiation
    • Camp Lejeune contaminated water exposure
    • Other exposures

    You’ll also get information on benefits, registry exams, and clinical resources you may need.

    Where to Get Help Filing a PACT Act Claim

    If you need help or more information, call the VA at 800-698-2411 (TTY: 711).

    Several lawyers offer services to help you apply for VA benefits, but some are little more than scams. To report fraudulent activity, contact the VA OIG at [email protected] or call 1-800-488-8244.

    Applying for PACT Act benefits is simple and free, and you can do it by working directly with the VA or a Veteran Service Organization.

    Written by Veteran.com Team