VA PACT Act Claims Process Under Review For 0% Disability Ratings
The Department of Veterans Affairs is reviewing its PACT Act claims process due to a large number of 0% disability ratings related to those claims.
A report published by Military.com notes that while the VA has approved most PACT Act claims submitted since the program began, more than 30% have received a 0% disability rating associated with PACT Act medical claims.
These are typically associated with conditions such as service-connected high blood pressure and/or hypertension. These medical issues may be managed with medication and were previously thought to be “non-disabling,” a concept now under review.
According to multiple sources, there have been well over half a million “adjudicated” VA PACT Act claims worth more than $2 billion in disability payments to veterans and surviving family members. None of those funds are directed toward VA-rated conditions at 0%.
What the VA Is Doing
After seeing so many claims resulting in a 0% rating, the Department of Veterans Affairs has pledged to review the entire process.
The VA wants to review PACT Act-related conditions manageable with medication, such as hypertension, associated with PACT Act toxic exposures, but at press time allow no disability percentage.
That review is conducted with an eye on altering the rating structure for these conditions to include them above the 0% level.
It’s important to note that this article is written in the earliest days of the review and there is no VA-promised outcome to expect (yet) as a result. When the facts and figures are better understood, the VA is likely to issue a policy statement at some point in the future addressing the 0% rating issue.
VA Disability Rating Questions
Is the VA consistently applying its disability rating criteria? The review mentioned above may return results saying more attention is needed. Why? In part because of the way it handles other PACT Act-related conditions.
Military.com notes that VA compensation for certain PACT Act-related cancers may apply even when the cancer is in remission, for example.
Why should someone who suffers from PACT Act-related toxic exposure be denied compensation for high blood pressure or related issues just because they aren’t traditionally viewed as disabilities?
That’s part of the issue under the Department of Veterans Affairs review. According to VA literature, PACT Act claims otherwise seem to have typical VA disability ratings at around 70%, depending on the condition and severity.
Related: Guide to Military Life Insurance
What a 0% VA Disability Rating Means
Those who filed PACT Act claims and received a 0% rating are typically those with a service-connected condition that is considered to be manageable but that do not qualify as a VA-recognized disability. As mentioned above, there is no monthly payment due the veteran for conditions with a 0% VA rating.
The VA official site has a page describing what it calls “non-compensable disability,” which refers to conditions the VA currently feels warrant no compensation but does allow access to VA healthcare and other benefits.
Some applicants may have multiple non-compensable disabilities. In such cases, VA policy at press time is as follows:
“We may increase your disability rating to 10% if you have 2 or more non-compensable disabilities that make it difficult for you to work.”
The VA adds that those who receive a second non-compensable disability rating and “meet the requirements listed here, we’ll automatically increase your rating” to 10%.
The VA review included referencing current medical research and partnering with the Veterans Health Administration as it moves forward with the study and its results.
At press time, the Department of Veterans Affairs has accepted over a million PACT Act claims and expects an additional 1.3 million claims unrelated to the Act, up some 40% over the previous fiscal year.
PACT Act benefits could help as many as 6 million veterans exposed to toxic chemicals while serving overseas in areas like the Persian Gulf, Vietnam, Southwest Asia, and elsewhere. The Pact Act is said to be among the largest efforts to expand VA benefits in 30 years.
Read more: The PACT Act and Your VA Benefits
About the author
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.