The PACT Act, formally known as The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, is likely the largest health care and benefit expansion in the VA’s history.
The PACT act extends healthcare for Veterans subject to exposure during the Vietnam, Gulf War, and Post 9/11 eras, adds dozens of presumptive conditions for VA disability due to exposure to burn its, Agent Orange, and other toxins, and expands locations for Agent Orange and radiation exposures. Given the abundance of information the PACT Act provides, the changes it makes, and the VA’s efforts to relay this information to Veterans and their survivors, there is often confusion regarding the provisions of the act.
One common misunderstanding is that based on materials sent by the VA or information generally posted online, many Veterans or survivors believe that August 9, 2023, is the last day to file a claim under the PACT Act, or the “Cutoff date.” This is simply not true.
The PACT Act was passed and came into effect on August 10, 2022 and there is no expiration date or “Cutoff date,” to file a claim. Rather, the August 9th deadline pertains to the effective date of a claim, which changes depending on whether a Veteran files a claim prior to or subsequent to this date. If a Veteran files a claim prior to August 9, 2023, and the VA grants the claim, it will be effective August 10, 2022, the date of the change in law. This means the Veteran will receive approximately twelve (12) months of a retroactive award or backpay. If a Veteran files the claim after August 9, 2023, and it is granted, the claim will be effective the date the Veteran filed the claim.
It is important to note, that filing a claim also applies to an Intent to File, as this is considered a claim for VA benefits. When a Veteran or survivor submits an Intent to File, it provides a 12 month period to a new disability benefits application (VA Form 21-526ez) or a Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995) to a prior denial. As long as the claim is filed within 12 months of the Intent to File, the effective date for a grant will be the date of the Intent to File.
Overall, as long as an Intent to File or VA disability benefits application is filed prior to August 9, 2023, it will preserve the August 10, 2022 effective date. While a Veteran or survivor that files prior to August 9, 2023, potentially will receive a larger retroactive sum, the PACT Act does not expire and a claim can be filed at any time after August 9, 2023.
More information on the PACT Act can be found at: https://www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/.
Information on how to submit an Intent to File (VA Form 21-0966) can be found at: Your Intent To File A VA Claim | Veterans Affairs.
Information on filing a VA disability claim (VA Form 21-562ez), which includes filing claims under the PACT Act, can be found at: About VA Form 21-526EZ | Veterans Affairs.