VA Rocky Mountain Network
Behind Friendly Lines: Apply for PACT Act Benefits
Don't wait, apply for PACT Act benefits today
PACT and VEAC: two initialisms you should know
The joke goes something like this: “How many veterans does it take to change a light bulb?”
Answer: “You don’t know, man! You weren’t there!”
For those of us who served, we get the joke. If you never wore the uniform or never deployed, you may not chuckle at those words.
But the VA is taking that joke and turning it on its head by declaring some conditions – for those of us who were there – as presumptive. What does it mean to have a presumptive condition? To get a VA disability rating, a veteran’s disability must connect to military service. For many health conditions, veterans need to prove that their service caused the condition. But for some conditions, VA automatically assumes (or “presumes”) that their military service caused the condition. We call these “presumptive conditions.” VA considers a condition presumptive when it is established by law or regulation. If a veteran has a presumptive condition, they don’t need to prove that their service caused the condition. They only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act is a historic new law that will help the VA provide benefits to millions of toxic-exposed veterans and their survivors. The PACT Act adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures, and it adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation. Details regarding the new presumptive conditions and new qualifying service locations/dates can be found at www.VA.gov/PACT.
Conditions outlined in the PACT Act have already taken a serious toll on many veterans and their families. To ensure veterans, their families, and survivors receive the benefits they have earned, VA is considering all conditions established in the PACT Act to be presumptive as of August 10, 2022, the date President Biden signed the bill into law.
Let me make this crystal clear to veterans reading this column: file a PACT Act claim before the one-year mark, August 10, 2023, in order for your benefit payments to have an effective date of August 10, 2022, if your claim is approved. “This is the single greatest expansion of benefits in VA history,” Michael Rohrbach (US Marine Corps veteran), director of the Denver VA Regional Office, recently shared with me. “I encourage all my fellow Veterans and their survivors who believe they may be entitled to benefits, to not wait and apply right away.”
VA will begin processing PACT Act claims on January 1, 2023, the earliest date possible.
Furthermore, VA is prioritizing the claims of veterans with cancer to make sure they get timely access to the care and benefits they need. Generally, if a veteran applies for benefits before August 10, 2023, and that application is granted, that person will receive benefits backdated to the date of the bill signing: August 10, 2022.
Also, VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System will host a PACT Act resource fair at the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom VA Clinic on Dec. 15 from 4:30 – 6:30 pm.
Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC)
VA and Colorado state partners are collaborating to host a virtual Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) for Colorado veterans, caregivers, service members, survivors, and family members on December 14-15, from 9 am – 3 pm MST.
VEAC provides veterans with direct connections to sign up for health care and benefits, the ability to check on claims and/or appeals status, connect with local peer-to-peer and community services, memorial affairs, and more. Everything is done over the phone for the veterans’ ease of access. To learn more about the event and register please visit: www.va.gov/VEAC.
Appointments are limited and registration runs through Sunday, December 11. When registering participants will have the option to schedule the virtual appointment time/day, which best fits their availability. At the time of the appointment, a Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) counselor will call the participant—via telephone—to kick off the appointment. Any veteran who identifies as homeless or at risk for homelessness will receive immediate assistance and not have to wait for the actual event in December.
Rohrbach shared this with me: “I’m extremely excited about this two-day event. It’s a unique opportunity for veterans, caregivers, service members, survivors, and family members to be directly connected, without the wait, to the right organization and individual ready to support their need.”
Thanks for allowing me to walk alongside you behind friendly lines.
For more information about the PACT Act, visit https://www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/
To register for the Veterans Experience Action Center, visit https://www.va.gov/initiatives/veterans-experience-action-centers/