At the American Legion’s National Convention on 31 August, Secretary of Veterans Affair McDonough announced that he will make all conditions outlined in the PACT Act, one of the biggest expansions of veteran benefits in history, presumptive from the date President Biden signed the bill into law (August 10). The initial plan was to phase-in conditions over the next few years, but the secretary said those in need have waited too long and must not wait any longer.
On news shows, he has pressed for veterans to submit their claims now, acknowledging that the Veterans Benefits Administration will not be able to act on them until January 1 by law (and assuming the process required to review of regulatory changes goes according to plan).
We will have to wait to learn how the secretary’s thinking will affect the Veterans Health Administration’s actions beyond those needed to support claims for disability compensation. The congressionally imposed phasing for eligibility for initial healthcare required to get the Act passed is baffling. Below is one of the better briefings from VHA, given on September 1 to veterans at the Credenza (Philadelphia) VA Medical Center, on the PACT Act as written. Slide 8 states, “Veterans might be eligible for healthcare earlier if they have service-connected illnesses or conditions or if they meet existing eligibility criteria.” Therefore, it is best to inquire than to accept the phasing criteria without question … and to see an accredited veterans service officer for advice.