Home  »  Military & Veteran Benefits   »   VA Accelerates Expanded Care Options for PACT Act Veterans

VA Accelerates Expanded Care Options for PACT Act Veterans

March 5, 2024, is an important day for millions of veterans. That’s the date the Department of Veterans Affairs chose to accelerate delivery of PACT Act benefits to more beneficiaries ahead of schedule.

The result of that acceleration? Any veteran stateside or overseas exposed to toxins may be eligible to apply “directly” for VA healthcare without applying for VA benefits first, opening the door to millions of veterans who may need this healthcare.

What is the PACT Act?

The PACT Act, passed in 2022, gave veterans who suffered qualifying toxic exposures in the line of duty access to expanded VA benefits and care for those exposures. PACT Act benefits were offered to those who suffered toxic exposures in the Vietnam War era forward.

The act added more than 20 medical issues as “presumptive conditions”, expanded care for Post-9/11 era vets, and expanded options for those exposed to toxins in Cambodia, Thailand, Loas, and military bases such as Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The act also required an expansion of these benefits originally meant to be phased in over time until 2032, but the VA decided to go immediately, hence the March 5, 2024, start date for those expanded options.

Related: Veteran and Retiree Military Benefits

Expanded Care Options For PACT Act Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the March 5, 2024, expansion on its official site. “All Veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving our country—at home or abroad—will be eligible to enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits.”

What It Means

That change potentially means ANY toxic exposure could qualify a veteran for VA healthcare without needing to apply for VA benefits first.

In the past, PACT Act veterans had to consult a list of approved service dates and locations, and the March 5 upgrade eliminates that for those seeking VA healthcare services to deal with the effects of toxic exposure.

Who Should Apply For Expanded PACT Act Benefits

According to VA.gov, those who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other combat zone after 9/11 should apply. You should also apply if you were “deployed in support of the Global War on Terror” or “were exposed to toxins or other hazards during military service.”

What is a Toxic Exposure?

Service members can be exposed to toxins in various ways, including the following, as listed on VA.gov. This is NOT a comprehensive list but it’s a good place to begin:

  • Burn pits
  • Sand
  • Dust
  • Particulates,
  • Oil well or sulfur fires,
  • Chemicals
  • Radiation
  • Depleted uranium
  • Herbicides

What To Do Next if You are a PACT Act Veteran

Are you a PACT Act veteran? Some aren’t sure, but the Department of Veterans Affairs offers toxic exposure screenings nationwide to help veterans determine whether they should apply for PACT Act benefits, including the expanded options offered beginning March 5, 2024.

VA.gov reminds us, “Every Veteran enrolled in VA health care will receive an initial screening and a follow-up screening at least once every 5 years. Veterans who are not enrolled and who meet eligibility requirements will have an opportunity to enroll and receive the screening.”

In the screening, you are asked questions about your military service and whether you encountered any of the following hazards:

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

Call your nearest VA facility or use the VA facility locator on the official site. You can also apply for VA PACT Act benefits at VA.gov/PACT or by calling 1-800-MYVA411.

Related: Veteran and Retiree Military Benefits

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.