On October 1, the VA began expanding and extending eligibility for VA health care for certain veterans of the Vietnam era, Gulf War era, and Post-9/11 era under the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.
Starting October 1, Post-9/11 veterans who did not previously enroll in VA health care have a one-year window to enroll if they:
• Served on active duty in a theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War, or
• Served in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after November 11, 1998, and
• Were discharged or released from active service between September 11, 2001, and October 1, 2013.
Gulf War veterans who served on active duty in a theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War may also be eligible for care. This includes veterans who, in connection with service during such period, received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Service Specific Expeditionary Medal, Combat Era Specific Expeditionary Medal, Campaign Specific Medal, or any other combat theater award established by federal statute or executive order.
Those who served in or supported the Vietnam War will also benefit from the PACT Act. One provision in the law expanded care and benefits for Vietnam veterans by adding a pair of diseases to VA’s list of conditions that are presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides. They are high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) and Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS). The effective date for MGUS was October 1, while the effective date for hypertension will be October 1, 2026. However, for veterans who are terminally ill, homeless, experiencing severe financial hardship, over age 85, or can demonstrate other sufficient cause, the effective date will be the day the law was signed (August 10, 2022). Another provision in the PACT Act expands the number of locations for presumptive Agent Orange exposure.
The new law also makes it easier for many survivors to receive dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) from the VA. Soon, department officials will be contacting survivors who were previously denied DIC benefits and may be newly eligible under the law. In addition to DIC, surviving family members may be eligible for burial benefits; education and training; health care through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA); or a VA-backed home loan. Eligible survivors don’t have to wait for the VA to contact them before they reapply.
Finally, a word of caution to veterans and survivors alike. Scammers are always taking advantage of new opportunities to commit fraud and, unfortunately, many of them see this new law as one. VA officials tell us there has been a big increase in PACT Act-related phishing (email), vishing (phone), and social media scams targeting veterans to access their PACT Act benefits or submit claims on their behalf. Veterans should be cautious of anyone who guarantees a lucrative financial benefit or service and be mindful that PVA’s service officers and those working for other major veterans service organizations, state, and local governments will assist you with your claim for free. Click here for tips to avoid PACT Act scams.