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Veterans or their survivors who want to file benefit claims for a toxic exposure-related medical condition under the PACT Act need to do so -- or declare their intent to -- by Aug. 9 if they hope to receive retroactive benefits dating back to President Joe Biden's signing of the law last year.
For PACT Act claims filed after Aug. 9, beneficiaries may still be eligible to receive a year of backdated benefits, but the year would count backward from the date they ultimately file, the Department of Veterans Affairs told Military.com by email.
"VA will review their record to determine the earliest benefit start date possible," a spokesperson said.
The law gave the potential to receive compensation to millions of veterans exposed to radiation and toxic chemicals while in uniform, or their survivors, going back to the 1960s.
The VA now assumes that certain medical conditions, including cancers, stemmed from toxic exposures during military service if the veteran with the condition served in a certain place at a certain time.
The VA says the PACT Act is "perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion" in its history. The department started processing PACT Act claims Jan. 1 and had received more than half a million as of April.
There is no final deadline to file a claim for PACT Act benefits. But for medical conditions that predated the act, filing by Aug. 9 is how to get the earliest possible effective date for benefits.
Survivors of deceased service members who died of a presumptive PACT Act condition likely also need to file by Aug. 9 to receive maximum dependency and indemnity compensation -- backdated to Aug. 10, 2022. However, those who have filed a claim in the past, but were denied, could get theirs backdated further.
To receive the retroactive pay, a potential beneficiary needs to file either the claim itself -- or formal notification of intent to do so -- by Aug. 9. Veterans don't need to be, or have been, enrolled in VA health care or part of a toxic exposure registry to file a claim.
Veterans or survivors who think they may qualify should file even if they've been turned down for the condition in the past, said Paul Hopkins, director of the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, in a news release alerting veterans to file by Aug. 9.
If the VA denied a claim in the past for a condition that's now presumptive -- presumed to be from a toxic exposure -- the veteran can file a supplemental claim.
A veterans service organization can help veterans file who don't feel confident in doing so on their own, said Paul Frost, a Navy retiree and program director for the Military Officers Association of America, in a video posted to the association's YouTube and Facebook pages letting veterans know about the Aug. 9 deadline for retroactive benefits.
"You do not pay a VSO, whether it's a county VSO or a national veterans service organization," Frost said, meaning organizations such as the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans or Veterans of Foreign Wars. "They provide these services free of charge with no obligation to join their association. They can ask you if you'd like to join, but there's no obligation to join."
Additionally, county VSOs, in states where they exist, are particularly tuned in to additional disability benefits veterans may qualify to receive from their state after they receive a decision on their claim from the VA, Frost said.
"If you get your claim in by Aug. 9 of this year, your award date will go back to last August. And why is that important?" Frost said. Because retroactive pay going back to August 2022 "could be a significant benefit."
*Miller,A (2023 July 21). Get Maximum PACT Act Benefits: Aug. 9 Is the Deadline to Get Pay Backdated to 2022. Military.com. https://www.military.com/daily-news/2023/07/21/get-maximum-pact-act-benefits-aug-9-deadline-get-pay-backdated-2022.html