The PACT Act and your VA benefits | Veterans Affairs (2023)

The PACT Act is a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. This law helps us provide generations of Veterans — and their survivors — with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

This page will help answer your questions about what the PACT Act means for you or your loved ones. You can also call us at800-698-2411(TTY: 711). And you can file a claim for PACT Act-related disability compensation or apply for VA health care now.

  • File a disability claim online
  • Apply for VA health care

What’s the PACT Act and how will it affect my VA benefits and care?

The PACT Act is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history. The full name of the law isThe Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.

The PACT Act will bring these changes:

  • Expands and extends eligibility forVA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of theVietnam, Gulf War,and post-9/11 eras
  • Adds more than 20new presumptive conditions forburn pitsand other toxic exposures
  • Adds morepresumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
  • Requires VA to provide atoxic exposure screeningto every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
  • Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures

If you’re a Veteran or survivor, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits.

What does it mean to have a presumptive condition for toxic exposure?

To get a VA disability rating, your disability must connect to your military service. For many health conditions, you need to prove that your service caused your condition.

But for some conditions, we automatically assume (or “presume”) that your service caused your condition. We call these “presumptive conditions.”

We consider a condition presumptive when it's established by law or regulation.

If you have a presumptive condition, you don’t need to prove that your service caused the condition. You only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.

Gulf War era and post-9/11 Veteran eligibility

What burn pit and other toxic exposure conditions are now presumptive?

We’ve added more than 20 burn pit and other toxic exposure presumptive conditions based on the PACT Act. This change expands benefits for Gulf War era and post-9/11 Veterans.

These cancers are now presumptive:

  • Brain cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
  • Glioblastoma
  • Head cancerof any type
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lymphatic cancerof any type
  • Lymphomaof any type
  • Melanoma
  • Neck cancer of any type
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Reproductive cancerof any type
  • Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type

These illnesses are now presumptive:

  • Asthma that was diagnosed after service
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic rhinitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
  • Emphysema
  • Granulomatous disease
  • Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
  • Pleuritis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis

How do I know if I have a presumptive exposure to burn pits?

If you served in any of these locations and time periods, we’ve determined that you had exposure to burn pits or other toxins. We call this having a presumption of exposure.

On or afterSeptember 11, 2001, in any of these locations:

  • Afghanistan
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen
  • The airspace above any of these locations

On or after August 2, 1990, in any of these locations:

  • Bahrain
  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • The airspace above any of these locations
(Video) 5 Ways the PACT Act Helps Veterans | VA Health Care | VA Disability | Vietnam, OIF, OEF | theSITREP

Am I eligible for free VA health care as a post-9/11 combat Veteran?

We’re extending and expanding VA health care eligibility based on the PACT Act. We encourage you to apply, no matter your separation date. Your eligibility depends on your service history and other factors.

If you meet the requirements listed here, you can get free VA health care for any condition related to your service for up to 10 years from the date of your most recent discharge or separation.You can also enroll at any time during this period and get any care you need, but you may owe a copay for some care.

At least one of these must be true of your active-duty service:

  • You served in a theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War, or
  • You served in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after November 11, 1998

And this must be true for you:

  • You were discharged or released on or after October 1, 2013

We encourage you to enroll now so we can provide any care you may need now or in the future. Enrollment is free.

What if I was discharged or released before October 1, 2013?

If you meet the requirements listed here, you can receive care and enroll during a special enrollment period between October 1, 2022, and October 1, 2023.

At least one of these must be true of your active-duty service:

  • You served in a theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War, or
  • You served in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after November 11, 1998

And both of these must be true for you:

  • You were discharged or released between September 11, 2001, and October 1, 2013, and
  • You haven’t enrolled in VA health care before

We encourage you to apply during this 1-year period so we can provide you with any care you may need now or in the future. Enrollment is free. And your care may be free as well.

Vietnam era Veteran eligibility

What new Agent Orange presumptive conditions will VA add?

Based on the PACT Act, we’ve added 2 new Agent Orange presumptive conditions:

  • High blood pressure (also called hypertension)
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)

If you think you’re eligible for VA health care and benefits, we encourage you to apply now.

(Video) How PACT Act affects Gulf War & Iraq Veterans | Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Somalia & More | theSITREP

What new Agent Orange presumptive locations will VA add?

We’ve added these 5 new locations to the list of presumptive locations:

  • Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailandfrom January 9, 1962, throughJune 30, 1976
  • Laos from December 1, 1965, throughSeptember 30, 1969
  • Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969
  • Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off of Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 31, 1980
  • Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977

If you served on active duty in any of these locations, we’ll automatically assume (or “presume”) that you had exposure to Agent Orange.

What new radiation presumptive locations will VA add?

We’ve added these 3 new response efforts to the list of presumptive locations:

  • Cleanup of Enewetak Atoll, from January 1, 1977, throughDecember 31, 1980
  • Cleanup of the Air ForceB-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons off the coast of Palomares, Spain,from January 17, 1966, throughMarch 31, 1967
  • Response to the fire onboard an Air Force B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons nearThule Air Force Base in Greenland from January 21, 1968, to September 25, 1968

If you took part in any of these efforts, we’ll automatically assume (or “presume”) that you had exposure to radiation.

Am I eligible for VA health care as a Vietnam Veteran?

If you served on active duty in any of these locations during these time periods, you’re now eligible to apply for VA health care:

  • The Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, andMay 7, 1975
  • Thailand at any U.S. or Royal Thai basebetween January 9, 1962, and June 30, 1976
  • Laos between December 1, 1965, and September 30, 1969
  • Certain provinces in Cambodiabetween April 16, 1969, and April 30, 1969
  • Guam or American Samoa(or their territorial waters) between January 9, 1962, and July 31, 1980
  • Johnston Atoll(or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll) between January 1, 1972, and September 30, 1977

Getting benefits

How do I file a disability claim for a new presumptive condition?

If you haven’t filed a claim yet for the presumptive condition, you can file a new claim online now. You can also file by mail, in person, or with the help of a trained professional.

File for VA disability compensation online

Learn more about how to file a disability compensation claim

If we denied your disability claim in the past and we now consider your condition presumptive, you can submit a Supplemental Claim. We’ll review your case again.

(Video) How PACT Act affects Vietnam Veterans | Agent Orange, Radiation Exposure & New Locations | theSITREP

Find out how to file a Supplemental Claim

What if VA denied my claim but now considers my condition presumptive?

We encourage you to file a Supplemental Claim. When we receive a Supplemental Claim, we’ll review the claim again.

Find out how to file a Supplemental Claim

Note:If we denied your claim in the past and we think you may be eligible now, we’ll try to contact you. But you don’t need to wait for us to contact you before you file a Supplemental Claim.

What if I have a pending claim for a condition that’s now presumptive?

You don’t need to do anything. If we added your condition after you filed your claim, we’ll still consider it presumptive. We’ll send you a decision notice when we complete our review.

Can I apply now?

Yes. We’re considering all presumptive conditions established by the PACT Act presumptive on the date the bill becomes law.

If you think you may be eligible for VA health care or benefits, we encourage you to apply now.

When can I expect VA to make a decision on my PACT Act claim?

We encourage all Veterans and survivors to file for benefits now. We’ll start to process PACT Act-related benefits in January 2023. We must wait for funding approval from Congress and put the needed systems in place before we can process these claims.

If you apply for benefits at any time in the next year and we grant your application, we’ll likely backdate your benefits to the date of the bill signing. This means we’ll pay you the amount you would have received from August 10, 2022, to the date we grant your application.

Information for survivors

Can Veterans’ survivors get compensation payments under the PACT Act?

Yes. If you’re a surviving family member of a Veteran, you may be eligible for these benefits:

  • A monthly VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC) payment. You may qualify if you’re thesurviving spouse, dependent child, or parent of aVeteran who died from a service-connected disability.
    Learn how to apply forVA DIC
  • A one-time accrued benefits payment. You may qualify if you’re the surviving spouse, dependent child,or dependent parentof a Veteran who we owed unpaid benefits at the time of their death.
    Learnabout evidence needed for accrued benefits
  • A Survivors Pension.You may qualify ifyou’re thesurviving spouse or child of a Veteran with wartime service.
    Learn how to apply for a Survivors Pension
(Video) How PACT Act affects Post 9/11 Veterans | Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan & More | theSITREP

What if VA denied my DIC claim and I think I’m now eligible?

You can submit a new application for VA dependency and indemnity compensation (VA DIC).

Learn about VA DIC and how to apply

Note:If we denied your claim in the past and we think you may be eligible now, we’ll try to contact you. We may be able to reevaluate your claim. But you don’t need to wait for us to contact you before you reapply.

What other VA benefits are survivors eligible for?

You may be eligible for these VA benefits as the surviving family member of a Veteran:

  • Burial benefits and memorial itemssuch as a gravesite in a VA national cemetery or a free headstone, marker, or medallion.
  • A burial allowanceto help withthe Veteran’s burial and funeral costs. You may qualify if you’re the Veteran’s surviving spouse, partner, child, or parent.
  • Education and training. You may qualify if you’re the survivorof a Veteran who died in the line of duty or as a result of service-connected disabilities.
  • Health carethrough the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). You may qualify if you’re the survivor or dependent of a Veteran with a service-connected disability.
  • A VA-backed home loan.You may qualify if you’re the surviving spouse of aVeteran.

Learn more about family member benefits

  • File a disability claim online
  • Apply for VA health care

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FAQs

Is hypertension a VA presumptive condition? ›

VA presumes service connection for hypertension if you received a diagnosis within one year of your release from active duty. If you received your diagnosis after the one-year mark, then the burden is on the veteran to prove service connection.

What are the presumptive conditions for Gulf War veterans? ›

We call these presumptive diseases.
...
And you have one of these presumptive diseases:
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Other undiagnosed illnesses, including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.
13 Jan 2022

What is in the PACT Act of 2022? ›

The PACT Act is a historic new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. This new law empowers VA to provide generations of Veterans – and their survivors – with the care and benefits they have earned.

How much disability do you get for burn pit exposure? ›

Over two thousand veterans who have filed burn pit claims are receiving VA disability compensation, according to the VA. A 60% disability rating for burn pit exposure entitles you to over $1,000 a month in disability compensation. A 100% disabling condition entitles you to over $3,000 a month.

What is the VA 5 year rule? ›

The VA disability 5 year rule allows the VA to ex-examine your VA disability rating within 5 years of your initial examination if your condition is expected to improve over time. However, the VA may still change your disability rating past the 5-year deadline if your condition has significantly improved.

What disqualifies you from VA benefits? ›

If you've received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge, you may not be eligible for VA benefits.

What happens to my VA disability when I turn 65? ›

Even after veterans reach full retirement age, VA's disability payments continue at the same level. By contrast, the income that people receive after they retire (from Social Security or private pensions) usually is less than their earnings from wages and salary before retirement.

What illnesses are associated with burn pits? ›

Common Symptoms and Conditions Related to Burn Pit Exposure
  • Asthma diagnosed after service.
  • Head cancer (of any type)
  • Neck cancer (of any type)
  • Respiratory cancer (of any type)
  • Gastrointestinal cancer (of any type)
  • Reproductive cancer (of any type)
  • Lymphoma cancer (of any type)
  • Lymphomatic cancer (of any type)

Are burn pits presumptive? ›

Currently, there are only three presumptive conditions for burn pits (asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis).

Is sleep apnea a presumptive condition for burn pit exposure? ›

A diagnosis of sleep apnea is an essential step for filing a claim for disability compensation and for proving service connection. Does the VA concede that burn pits cause sleep apnea? No. Unfortunately, sleep apnea is not one of the conditions that the VA currently presumes is caused by burn pits.

How do you claim exposure on burn pit? ›

Any claim for burn pit compensation requires a veteran to establish a service-connected disability.
...
A viable claim includes:
  1. A current diagnosis of a chronic physical or mental disability.
  2. Eligible periods of service, or a verifiable stressor.
  3. A connection between your current diagnosis and the in-service event.

Videos

1. PACT Act Passes U.S. Senate: Burn Pits, Agent Orange & More
(Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD)
2. After a long battle, veterans celebrate PACT Act's passage. But the war goes on for many
(PBS NewsHour)
3. PACT Act VA Benefits Q+A Session
(Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD)
4. The PACT ACT Explained: Toxic Exposure Veterans' Benefits
(Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD)
5. President Signs PACT Act: Veterans Toxic Exposure Bill Becomes Law
(Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD)
6. PACT Act is the Biggest VA Bill in History
(Hill and Ponton, P.A.)
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