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PACT Act proves popular, delivers $2.2 billion in VA benefits for vets exposed to toxins

UPI

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday reported that more than a million claims resulting in more than $2.2 billion in earned benefit payouts have been made so far to veterans and survivors since President Biden signed the PACT Act.

The VA said veterans and survivors are applying for their earned benefits at record rates. So far, the VA has processed more than 551,000 of the claims, granting 77.9% of them.

"Thanks to President Biden, the heroes who fought for our country are now getting health care and compensation for the conditions that followed them home from war," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. "We're proud that more than one million veterans and survivors have applied for their hard-earned benefits to date, but this is just the beginning -- and we won't rest until every veteran and every survivor gets the VA health care and benefits they deserve."

The PACT Act is a new law enacted under the Biden administration in 2022 that expands VA health care and veterans benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, Agent Orange and other poisons during their military service.

Among other things, the law expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for vets who suffered toxic exposures from the Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 eras.

It adds more than 20 presumptive conditions and more presumptive exposure locations and requires the VA to screen every veteran enrolled in VA health care for toxic exposure.

The VA said Thursday that a special enrollment period is available to veterans until Sept. 30 for those deployed to a combat zone but who never enrolled in VA health care. It's for vets who left active duty between Sept. 11, 2001 and Oct. 1, 2013.

Veterans can learn more about the PACT Act and VA benefits by visiting VA.gov/PACT or calling 1-800-MYVA411.

The VA also said Thursday that, for the first time in the agency's history, the Veterans Health Administration has over 400,000 employees and the Veterans Benefits Administration has over 31,000 employees.