WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — After the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act passed in the summer, it opened a new pathway for veterans suffering from cancer due to toxic exposures. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wanted to do more to get veterans help faster.
“We need to get them what they need now,” VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said.
The VA says it will now speed up claim processing to ensure veterans with cancer from toxic exposures are getting access to care.
“It was gonna be a phased-in approach over several years, up to 2025. The President, President Biden, Secretary McDonough said no, that’s not sufficient enough,” Hayes said.
Hayes said all PACT Act related claims will be processed starting on January 1st, providing coverage for more than 20 new presumptive conditions.
“There’s no evidence required. Bottom line- if you have one of those conditions, come see us for healthcare, but also file your benefit claim today, so you can get the benefit you’ve earned,” Hayes said.
Veterans have already filed 14,000 claims since the PACT Act passed. To handle that surge in claims, the VA is hiring more staff at its regional offices.
“Once we get those folks on board, we’ll train them up, educate them and get them on board so we can get this thing right done the first time,” Hayes said.
The toxic exposure screenings will take place every five years, but if veterans notice any signs, they can seek immediate help.
“Raise their hand the moment that they see something that can potentially be linked to their service,” Hayes said.
Hayes says there are thousands of veterans who still haven’t signed up for coverage or filed a claim. He’s urging those who have, to reach out to their fellow service members.