FACT SHEET: In First Year, President Biden's Bipartisan PACT Act Delivers Care for Veterans in all 50 States and U.S. Territories and Advances Unity Agenda
One year ago today, President Biden signed the landmark bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act into law, enacting the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans in more than 30 years. Named in honor of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, a decorated combat medic who died from a rare form of lung cancer, this historic legislation is delivering timely benefits and services to veterans—across all generations—who have been impacted by toxic exposures while serving our country.
President Biden believes that our nation has a sacred obligation to properly prepare and equip the troops we send into harm's way – and to care for them and their families when they return home. Sometimes military service can result in increased health risks for our veterans, and some injuries and illnesses like asthma, cancer, and others can take years to manifest. These realities can make it difficult for veterans to establish a direct connection between their service and disabilities resulting from military environmental exposures such as burn pits – a necessary step to ensure they receive the health care they earned. The PACT Act eliminates these barriers and ensures veterans get the care and services they deserve.
President Biden has made clear that supporting our veterans is a commitment that unites all Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- and it's why he made supporting our veterans a core element of his Unity Agenda. Today, on the anniversary of the signing of the PACT Act, the President will join veterans and their families at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, to discuss how this historic, bipartisan legislation has delivered lifesaving health care and benefits to more than 340,000 veterans and survivors.
Today, the Biden-Harris administration will also release new national and state-by-state data on PACT Act claims, which have been processed at record rates by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In the past year, the Administration has helped veterans in every state and territory receive the services and care they deserve by:
- Screening veterans for toxic exposures: More than 4.1 million veterans have received free screenings for toxic exposures from VA under the PACT Act – a critical step to catching and treating potentially life-threatening health conditions as early as possible.
- Delivering benefits to veterans and their survivors: Over the past year, VA has delivered more than $1.85 billion in earned PACT Act-related benefits to veterans and their survivors. VA is delivering these benefits to veterans at the fastest rate in history, processing 1.65 million total claims thus far in this fiscal year – 16% more year-to-date than the previous all-time record. In total, VA has processed 458,659 PACT Act claims since August 10, 2022.
- Prioritizing veterans with cancer: As a part of President Biden's Cancer Moonshot, VA has prioritized claims processing for veterans with cancer – delivering nearly $215 million in PACT Act benefits to veterans with cancer. VA also prioritizes claims for veterans with terminal illnesses and veterans experiencing homelessness.
- Spreading the word to veterans and their survivors: Thanks to the PACT Act outreach campaign, veterans and survivors are applying for their earned benefits at record rates. In this fiscal year, veterans and survivors have submitted 1.95 million total claims – the most in VA history and a 37% increase over last year. This includes 843,448 PACT Act-specific claims applications.
- Increasing VA's capacity to serve veterans: Thanks to new PACT Act authorities, VA has been able to expand its workforce in order to serve veterans as quickly and effectively as possible. In total, both the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits administration have achieved their highest growth rates in 20 years — and the Veterans Benefits Administration is now above 29,000 employees for the first time in history.
- Eliminating benefits delays for veterans: Instead of phasing in conditions over several years (as outlined in the legislation), the Biden-Harris Administration decided to make all conditions in the PACT Act presumptive for benefits as of August 10, 2022, the day the bill was signed into law. This decision expedited the timeline for veterans to receive their earned care and benefits by several years.
These historic efforts to address military toxic exposures build on the Biden-Harris Administration's recent work to support our nation's veterans
- Ending veteran homelessness. No one should be homeless in this country, especially not those who served it. Last year, VA found permanent housing for over 40,000 veterans and set a goal to permanently house at least 38,000 veterans this year. And, President Biden is proposing to triple the number of rental assistance vouchers for extremely low-income veterans. These efforts are leading to results: from 2020 to 2022, there was an 11 percent decline in veteran homelessness.
- Investing in mental health & suicide prevention efforts. Since releasing a comprehensive public health strategy for reducing military and veteran suicide, the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to improve mental health care and suicide prevention efforts for veterans. VA is doing everything it can, including expanding mental health screenings, increasing access to legal and financial support, and hiring more mental health professionals, to help veterans get the help they need. For veterans and family members who may be experiencing a crisis, the Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 by dialing 988 and then pressing 1.
- Securing jobs for our veterans. Roughly 200,000 service members transition from the military each year and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to providing them and their spouses the support they need to find good paying jobs. This includes helping connect veterans to registered apprentice programs, so they can transfer the skills they learned in the military. This year, VA will launch a transition assistance grant program for organizations that help veterans and their spouses find jobs when they leave the military.
- Supporting veterans and caregivers. This spring, President Biden signed an Executive Order directing the VA to cut red tape and give veterans who need assistance at home more flexibility to pick their own caregivers. The order also directed expansion of caregiver support programs, including launching a new initiative to deliver mental health services for caregivers. And, earlier this summer, President Biden went to North Carolina and signed an Executive Order at Fort Liberty. The Executive Order calls for the most comprehensive set of administrative actions in our nation's history to support the economic security of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors.
If you are a veteran, visit www.va.gov/PACT or go to your local VA hospital to see if you are eligible for PACT Act benefits and services.
For a state-by-state breakdown of PACT Act data, click here.
Joseph R. Biden, FACT SHEET: In First Year, President Biden's Bipartisan PACT Act Delivers Care for Veterans in all 50 States and U.S. Territories and Advances Unity Agenda Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/363680