For millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances, the Honoring our PACT Act opened a crucial door. Enacting this transformative law in August 2022 was not only the culmination of years of DAV’s leading advocacy but also the largest and most comprehensive expansion of veterans benefits in a generation.
That’s when our benefits advocates from across the nation got to work to ensure no veteran reeling from toxic exposure is left behind.
Rather than require veterans or their survivors to prove that an exposure took place, the PACT Act assumes that some diseases are service-connected if the veteran served in certain countries during eligible time frames. This brings veterans living with the consequences of the ubiquitous practice of burn pits in line with those who were exposed to Agent Orange during Vietnam.
DAV helped blast that door wide open, and for the past year and a half, our benefits advocates have stepped up in securing the compensation and Department of Veterans Affairs health care veterans have already earned.
And I couldn’t be prouder of how DAV has stood up to meet that challenge.
While our benefits advocates are experts in everything from aiding homeless veterans to extending emergency relief when disaster strikes, and beyond, representing veterans, their families and their survivors is DAV’s bread and butter.
Since the PACT Act became law, more than 1 million veterans, or their survivors, have filed claims for ailments stemming from toxic exposure. More than 4.4 million veterans have undergone VA toxic exposure screenings, and all told, nearly $2.2 billion in earned benefits have been paid to veterans, or their surviving beneficiaries, who have fallen ill to one of the more than 20 presumptive diseases.
Every day, DAV benefits advocates overcome the frustrating barriers presented to veterans when filing a claim. Being well versed in the nuances of the VA system means a world of difference, particularly for those sickened due to their service. And veterans know they can leverage our expertise to achieve a just outcome.
Beyond submitting claims, DAV benefits advocates can also help veterans when mistakes occur. As VA-accredited representatives, they can request a further review or appeal so an adverse VA decision doesn’t mean the end of the road.
The PACT Act’s legacy is just beginning, but we know that toxic exposures are unfortunately not an aberration of military conflict—they’re all but a guarantee. But the PACT Act is here to stay. No matter when or where America sends its sons and daughters, they should know that if they are forever changed in service, DAV will be there every step of the way.
If you or another veteran needs any type of claims assistance, PACT Act-related or otherwise, reach out to a DAV benefits advocate at benefitsquestions.org.