Important Deadline Approaching for Veterans to Apply for PACT Act Benefits

veteransGilbert Smith served in the Air Force for 20 years as an aircraft mechanic. He recently inquired about PACT benefits for those who may have been exposed to toxic substances during service. According to Smith, “I was exposed to hazardous chemicals on the aircraft,” he said. “I was an aircraft mechanic, and in 2009, I came down with kidney cancer. I really felt that the hazardous chemicals could’ve caused my cancer years after I got out of the military.”

Smith feels the PACT Act benefits are an improvement from what was available when he got out of service in the late ’90s, and he hopes he’ll qualify. “To get medical care was next to impossible,” he said. “But since the 2000s, the VA has come a long way and they really take care of the veterans.”

What Is the PACT Act?

Last August, a law passed that expanded health care and payments to veterans who may have been exposed to toxic substances during their service. The PACT Act provides generations of veterans — and their survivors — with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

File Your PACT Act Claim by August 9 to Be Eligible for Backdated Benefits

There’s no deadline to apply for PACT Act benefits. But if you file your PACT Act claim — or quickly submit your intent to file — by tomorrow, August 9, 2023, you may receive benefits backdated to August 10, 2022. So the VA is cautioning eligible veterans not to wait!

How Does a Veteran Qualify for the PACT Act?

The Department of Veteran Affairs has listed more than 20 types of cancer and other illnesses that are presumed to be caused by exposure to warfare agents, burn pits, and other chemicals during the Vietnam, Gulf, and post-9/11 wars. The hazardous materials that veterans may have been exposed to are: 

  • Agent Orange: If you served in the Republic of Vietnam or in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) during the Vietnam Era — or in certain related jobs — you may have had contact with Agent Orange, an herbicide used to clear plants and trees during the war.
  • Asbestos: If you worked in certain military jobs, you may have had contact with asbestos (toxic fibers once used in many buildings and products).
  • Mustard gas or lewisite: If you served at the German bombing of Bari, Italy, in World War II or worked in certain other jobs, you may have had contact with mustard gas.
  • Camp Lejeune Water Contamination: If you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River between August 1953 and December 1987, you may be at risk of certain illnesses believed to be caused by contaminants found in the drinking water during that time.
  • Radiation exposure: If you served in the post-WWII occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, were imprisoned in Japan, worked with or near nuclear weapons testing, or served at a gaseous diffusion plant or in certain other jobs, you may be at risk of illnesses believed to be caused by radiation.
  • Project 112/SHAD: If you were part of warfare testing for Project 112 or Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) from 1962 to 1974, you may be at risk of illnesses believed to be caused by chemical testing.
  • Gulf War Illnesses, SW Asia: If you served in Afghanistan, you may be at risk of certain illnesses or other conditions linked to this region.
  • Gulf War Illnesses, Afghanistan:  If you served in Afghanistan, you may be at risk of certain illnesses or other conditions linked to this region.
  • Birth defects like spina bifida: If you served in the Republic of Vietnam, in Thailand, or in or near the Korean DMZ during the Vietnam Era — and your child has spina bifida or certain other birth defects — your child may be eligible for disability benefits.
  • Burn pits and other specific environmental hazards: If you served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or certain other areas, you may have had contact with toxic chemicals in the air, water, or soil.

Presumptive conditions for PACT Act eligibility include 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; 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); pleurisy; pulmonary fibrosis; and/or sarcoidosis.

According to a spokesperson for the VA,“(e)ven if you’re not sure what benefits to file for or even if you qualify, you should at minimum file an intent to file. All that does is it puts a place marker in that says ‘I intend to file a claim for benefits, I’m not sure what that is yet.’” Benefits for eligible veterans that apply for benefits after the August 9th deadline will take effect based on the date filed, and they won’t be able to get the extra year of retroactive benefits.

Surviving Family Members Are Eligible for PACT Act Benefits, as Well

If you’re a surviving family member of a Veteran, you may be eligible for these benefits under the PACT Act:

  • A monthly VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC) payment: You may qualify if you’re the surviving spouse, dependent child, or parent of a Veteran who died from a service-connected disability. Learn how to apply for VA DIC.
  • A one-time accrued benefits payment: You may qualify if you’re the surviving spouse, dependent child, or dependent parent of a Veteran who was owed unpaid benefits at the time of their death. Learn about evidence needed for accrued benefits.
  • A Survivors Pension: You may qualify if you’re the surviving spouse or child of a Veteran with wartime service. Learn how to apply for a Survivors Pension.

For more details about the PACT Act and how to file, please click here. You can also call the VA at 800-698-2411. Please also read my article on the PACT Act from last August here for lots of information from when the law was introduced. 

Are You or a Loved One Eligible for Veterans Aid and Attendance?

Thousands of veterans and their spouses take advantage of the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit each year, but VA officials say that many more are eligible.

To be eligible, beneficiaries must be at least 65 years old, veterans or married to veterans who served during a wartime period and must have been honorably discharged. Applicants must also need help with at least one activity of daily living: eating, walking, dressing, bathing, using the toilet, or adjusting prosthetic devices. Those who live in nursing homes or require in-home care, or are blind, may also be eligible.

If you are a Veteran or spouse of a Veteran and you need assistance, be sure to make an appointment for a consultation. We can work with you to evaluate if you qualify for Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and help you file the paperwork. To learn more about Veterans Aid and Attendance, click here.

The Farr Law Firm Works with Veterans Enrolled in the Wounded Warrior Project 

At the Farr Law Firm, we work with veterans enrolled in the Wounded Warrior Project Independence Program, which helps eligible veterans who have a spinal cord injury, a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, or a neurodegenerative disorder such as MS or ALS. The Wounded Warrior Project also offers a multitude of other services that veterans (even nondisabled veterans) may benefit from. Contact the Wounded Warrior Project Resource Center at 888-997-2586, and one of their coordinators will be available to assist you and begin to assess the programs within WWP that might be helpful for you.  

Let Us Help You Get All the Benefits to Which You’re Entitled 

Applying for veterans’ benefits can be an arduous process. Here at the Farr Law Firm, we help veterans and their spouses evaluate whether they qualify or may in the future qualify for Veterans Benefits.  

Northern Virginia Veterans Planning: 703-691-1888  
Fredericksburg, VA Veterans Planning: 540-479-1435  
Rockville, MD Veterans Planning: 301-519-8041  
Annapolis, MD Veterans Planning: 410-216-0703  
Washington, DC Veterans Planning: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.