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Veterans urged to apply for PACT Act benefits by Aug. 9 to receive retroactive compensation

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Thousands of veterans across the Hoosier state may be impacted by a significant increase of healthcare and benefits, but there is a crucial deadline approaching.

The PACT Act, which expanded VA health treatment and benefits for veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other harmful substances, was passed back in August of 2022.

According to the VA, the PACT Act increases eligibility for almost 200,000 veterans from Indiana. The VA estimated that 15,000 veterans could now be eligible in Marion County alone. That includes numerous veterans who could have previously had their benefits denied.

Kelvin Wade, a Gulf War Army veteran, recently submitted an application. He served in the Army from 1987—the year he graduated from high school—until 1995. Wade traveled for 18 months.

“It was a very unique experience living in the desert,” Wade smiled.

Wade was exposed to hazardous substances while serving, much like many soldiers before him, especially from “burn pits,” which many soldiers used to dispose of various waste.

“We would burn it,” he described. “Didn’t think twice about it. We would pour jet fuel and diesel and set it on fire.”

Wade claimed he started to see something decades after his service.

“There were some breathing issues,” he said. “I realized I was becoming fatigued easier. It had an impact on my ability to exercise.”

Wade claimed that initially he had no idea why he was experiencing those issues.

“I’m thinking, I’m still relatively young, why am I experiencing these difficulties? And so I began to make some connections,” he said.

At least 20 more presumptive criteria for exposure to toxic substances, Agent Orange, and burn pits are included under the PACT Act.

“What the PACT Act did is, it said look, for these 23 conditions you no longer have to prove a nexus,” said Mark Tunrey with the VA. “Being in theater was enough.”

Veterans who have previously been rejected are urged by Turney to reapply.

“It’s very important for veterans to know even if you’ve been denied in the past, you need to refile your claim,” he said. “There’s no way the VA has to go back and re-adjudicate those claims.”

Veterans should still apply, according to Turney, even if they are unsure of their eligibility. Also crucially, he exhorts veterans to apply before August 9. Up to a year’s worth of retroactive compensation will be available for claims submitted by then.

“That back pay could be $10,000 depending on your level of service connection,” Turney said. “It could be more than that. I mean for some veterans in the community, that’s live changing money for them.”

Kelvin Wade has already applied and expressed his excitement at the results, but he urges others to follow suit.

“I’ll just simply say, take advantage of this opportunity now,” he said. “It’s important that you take care of yourself and for your family who is also depending on you.”

The VA stated that candidates may submit a “intent to file” by August 9 if a finished application has not been submitted by that date. Eligible veterans who submit an application or “intent to file” by August 9 will be given that backpay.

Here is where veterans can apply for the PACT Act. The VA’s phone number is 800-698-2411 (TTY: 711). Veterans can also seek assistance with the application process at the VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, according to Mark Turney.

 

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