With the signing of the PACT Act on August 10, 2022 tens of thousands of Veterans will now be eligible to enroll in, and receive, VA healthcare on October 1, 2022. The largest group affected are those pos-9/11 servicemembers who have not previously enrolled in VA healthcare and meet certain criteria for enrollment. Of note, these Veterans will only have a one-year window to sign up for these benefits based on the language of the law. Secretary McDonough has said that the VA has hired increased staff to handle these claims and for the increased demand for healthcare through the VA.
To be eligible, Veterans would need to have served on active duty in a combat theater after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, served against a hostile force after Nov. 11, 1998, or were discharged or released from active duty from Sept. 11, 2001, to Oct. 1, 2013.
Some additional groups of Vietnam Veterans and Gulf War Veterans are also eligible to enroll under certain circumstances.
Vietnam-era Veterans will be eligible for care if they served any time in:
- Vietnam from Jan. 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975
- Thailand at a U.S. or Royal Thai base from Jan. 9, 1962, to June 30, 1976
- Laos from Dec. 1, 1965, to Sept. 30, 1969
- Guam or American Samoa — or their territorial waters — from Jan. 9, 1962, to July 31, 1980
- Johnston Atoll, or a ship that called there, from Jan. 1, 1972, to Sept. 30, 1977
Any Veterans who served after the Persian Gulf war and earned an expeditionary medal, a campaign-specific medal or another combat theater award, or a Veteran who engaged in combat against a hostile force on or after November 11, 1998, also will be eligible beginning October 1.
In addition to health care expansion, the law designated 23 illnesses as presumed to be related to exposure to burn pits used in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as part of the Global War on Terrorism, and it added two conditions — hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance — for Vietnam veterans.
The designation allows veterans with the illnesses to receive disability benefits more expeditiously since they aren’t required to prove that their disease is service connected, a process that can be drawn out and that entails extensive documentation and medical assessments. The legislation is expected to cost roughly $277 billion through 2031.
If you have questions about expanded VA Healthcare coverage, or have any other questions regarding claims against the VA please contact the experienced Veterans’ disability attorneys at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly serves Veterans across the United States from their home office in Mobile, Alabama.