PACT ActOne of the provisions of the 2022 PACT Act mandates that the VA screen Veterans for possible exposure to toxins which may have occurred during their time in service. In just the first year, more than 4 million Veterans were screened and out of that number 1.7 million Veterans screened positive for possible exposure.  Steve Miska, the VA's PACT Act transitional executive director told that as a result, the VA is reaching back out to those Veterans, "encouraging them to file a supplemental claim that could potentially increase benefits, whether on the health-care side or many of the other benefits.”

This means that if you are a Veteran who tests positive for toxic exposure you may be eligible for additional VA benefits if you are currently drawing partial or even full 100% VA disability benefits.  And, there are fewer hurdles to get over for an increased rating. The PACT Act assumes that some illnesses are service-connected if the person served in a certain place at a certain time. This means that Veterans or their survivors no longer need to prove that a toxic exposure caused a given condition. 

If you have a disability rating of less than 100% your rating could be increased since the VA covers more conditions under the PACT Act.  The VA says you do not have to worry that by applying for screening it could result in a rating decrease. "We are not…looking back at other service-connected issues trying to decrease those," Kaitlin Richards, assistant director in the VA's Office of Policy and Oversight, told An increased rating could mean a considerable increase in monthly compensation, especially if you have dependents. For example, the disability pay for a married Veteran with a dependent child under age 18 whose rating goes from 10% to 60% could see their 2023 pay jump from $165.92 a month to $1,528.65 a month. (To see what difference this could make for your specific situation use the VA Disability Calculator on our website.)

Even if you already have a 100% disability rating you should file a PACT Act claim if you believe you have a condition that’s covered under the Act. "Because if you get [declared] service-connected for a disability, and that is ultimately the disability that you pass away from, that -- whatever is listed on your death certificate -- is how your survivor, your spouse, will be able to file for their own benefits,” Richards stated. Furthermore, depending on their condition, Veterans may qualify for “Special Monthly Compensation” — additional compensation if they need, for example specially adapted housing, or daily help in everyday activities like dressing, cleaning or grooming.

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska