Deadline is approaching for veterans to apply for PACT Act benefits

Deadline nears for veterans for backdated benefits from PACT Act
Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 6:29 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It’s been almost a year since President Biden signed the PACT Act into legislation, helping veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals get better healthcare and benefits. Now, there’s a deadline that’s approaching for those veterans.

For the last year veterans who served in Vietnam, the Gulf War and the post-9/11 era were eligible for benefits through the PACT Act. Now the deadline on Wednesday is for those who have not yet filed but can still have their benefits backdated to the day the bill was signed a year ago.

The act was signed into law in 2022 and covers veterans and their families exposed to toxic chemicals while serving, such as Marines who suffered from toxic water at Camp Lejeune. But the time to claim some of those benefits is running out.

“August 9th deadline refers to an opportunity for veterans who are eligible for the PACT Act to apply for benefits. You could submit a claim or an attempt to file a claim and potentially be eligible for backdated benefits, which will align with the date that the pact was signed into law, which would be August 10, 2022,” said Gale Cureton, a Veterans Affairs public affairs office.

Claiming those backdated benefits could mean big payments for vets who have incurred hefty medical bills over the last year.

More than five million veterans are eligible to apply for PACT Act benefits, but nearly two-thirds of them are unaware that they can receive these benefits, according to a recent AARP report. As of May in North Carolina, over 12,000 cases have been approved and the gross retroactive payments have been over $6 million.

Cureton said the significance of having your benefits backdated a year and the extra compensation that can come along with it if you file before this week’s deadline.

“What a backdated benefit does is it establishes that connection and that service connection on the date of August 10th versus the date in which the veteran actually is adjudicated or is determined eligible for that benefit. So essentially, that makes that date once it is awarded, the date of eligibility as August 10, 2022,” said Cureton.

Although the deadline to access a year of enhanced benefits is on Wednesday, veterans don’t need to complete the application by then. We’re told that they only need to register an “intent to file” on the Veterans Affairs website.

“Veterans who were exposed to toxic fumes while fighting for their country, whether it was in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, or the Middle East. They deserve world-class care and also world-class benefits,” said Steve Muir, the service officer for American Legion Post 543 in Southport.

While the time to file in person has passed, you can still get help.

“It’s too late now to go to a county veteran’s service officer or to get a claim in manually, but it’s not too late over the next two days to file electronically at,” said Muir.

So that no deserving veteran, family, or widow goes without.