Jim Marszalek

Last August, the Honoring our PACT Act was signed into law thanks to the groundbreaking advocacy of DAV and a coalition of veterans service organizations. In the first 8 months of the law’s enactment, veterans and their survivors have filed more than 500,000 PACT Act-related claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to the VA, over 200,000 of those claims have been processed, resulting in over $1 billion in compensation.

During the same period, more than 3 million veterans have received a toxic exposure screening, with more than 40% saying they were concerned about toxic exposure. Additionally, more than 215,000 veterans have signed up for VA health care, which is a 15% increase during that same period last year. These numbers demonstrate how effective outreach has been, but also how much work still needs to be done.

Ensuring every veteran knows about these new toxic exposure benefits and how to file a VA claim is critical. Among its many impactful provisions, the PACT Act reduces bureaucratic obstacles for an estimated 3.5 million veterans who seek VA benefits due to burn pit exposures during the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hostile locations.

The law adds nearly two dozen presumptive conditions related to burn pit exposure, meaning veterans who served in overseas locations with active burn pits no longer have to prove their exposure or establish direct service connection if diagnosed with ailments listed in the law that are known to cause such conditions.

Applying for these benefits before August 10, 2023, will ensure benefits are backdated to August 10, 2022, meaning that if the veteran is awarded compensation due to their claim, they will receive back payments to that date. Claims filed after August 10, 2023, will be awarded based on the filing date.

Navigating the resources available to veterans can be confusing, but DAV believes no veteran should have to do it alone. Our national service officers are experts in veteran benefits and provide best-in-class service, free of charge and are ready to help. DAV departments and chapters also have volunteer service officers available to offer additional assistance.

By bringing the subject to the public’s attention in 2008 and establishing a pilot program that was the forerunner to the Burn Pit Registry, DAV has led from the front on this issue for 15 years. Now we should continue the fight by making veterans aware of the impact of this legislation.

A great way for departments and chapters to spread awareness about veteran benefits and services and how DAV can assist is by hosting a free information seminar. Information seminars allow DAV an opportunity to educate veterans and their families in your community about the new benefits available under the PACT Act.

These events are essential to engage with veterans and their families and help them obtain the benefits and services they have rightfully earned. To request an information seminar, departments and chapters can contact their local national service office to schedule an event.

You can find the 2023 information seminar schedule at
dav.org/get-help-now/veteran-topics-resources/information-seminars/ or for more information on contacting your local DAV service office, please visit benefitsquestions.org.