Veterans: Don’t Miss the Upcoming Deadline For PACT Act Benefits
President Joe Biden put his signature to The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act last August, marking a significant advancement in the provision of healthcare benefits for veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits. This groundbreaking legislation came about after fervent advocacy and strong lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.
A year ago, the fight to get the PACT Act approved was led by a coalition of veterans’ advocates, including well-known comedian Jon Stewart and committed activist John Feal. Their dedication to the cause included impassioned speeches and public statements.
Stewart’s intensity was evident when he exclaimed, “You want to do it here? Let’s dig a giant [expletive] pit 10 acres long and burn everything in Washington with jet fuel. And then let me know how long they want to wait before they think it’s going to cause some health problems.”
Following some delays and a brief stalemate, Congress rallied to support the bill, culminating in its successful passage.
The PACT Act has life-changing implications for millions of veterans like Cindy Aman, who was exposed to the harmful effects of burn pits. The Veterans Administration initially denied her claims, but the new law aims to right these wrongs. Aman detailed her experience, saying, “When you burn plastics, when you burn metals, when you do all these things and then you’re inhaling them — of course your body is not going to react like it’s supposed to.”
Burn pits were a commonly used, though primitive, method to dispose of heaps of garbage during military operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The trash burnt in these pits contained harmful substances such as batteries, human waste, chemicals, and more.
The PACT Act’s provisions are comprehensive, offering automatic coverage for 23 illnesses linked to burn pit exposure, removing the burden from veterans to prove how they got sick. It represents a major shift in policy and brings hope to veterans who have struggled to get the care they need.
Senator Jon Tester emphasized the importance of the act, stating, “Hundreds of thousands of folks have applied for expanded care and benefits under the law. But we’ve got to make sure more veterans know that they can apply. That’s why I wanted to flag two big PACT Act deadlines coming up.”
While there’s no ultimate deadline to apply for PACT Act benefits, those seeking retroactive benefits must apply by August 9 to qualify for payments going back to last year.
The story of Kerrie Wieners, whose husband Robert died of lung cancer due to exposure to burn pits, underscores the urgency of the act. Initially denied coverage by the VA, she re-applied with help from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and finally received the benefits going back to her 2010 denial. In an emotional statement, she said, “I finally feel like I’m going to be okay and I feel supported and validated.”
Those who require assistance or have questions about the PACT Act can reach TAPS at 800-959-8277 or visit their website at taps.org/pactact.
The enactment of the PACT Act stands as a testament to the efforts of advocates and lawmakers alike, working together to ensure that the heroes who served their country are not forgotten and that their healthcare needs are met. It’s a critical step toward recognizing the sacrifices they have made and ensuring that they receive the care and support they deserve.