WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — It’s been almost a year since the PACT Act was signed into law, promising sick veterans and their families healthcare and compensation. Now a critical deadline is approaching for veterans who want to apply for backdated benefits.
Desert Storm veteran Tim Hauser says he developed life-threatening health issues after being exposed to toxic burn pits. Then, he spent decades fighting for military health benefits.
“The day that we got the letter saying that my claim was finally approved, my wife looked at me and said ‘yeah your fight’s not over is it?’ I says, ‘no this can’t happen to no other veteran,'” Hauser said.
He decided he didn’t want any other veteran to have to struggle to get benefits like he did, so he joined a movement to demand change.
Last August, Hauser and other advocates finally got what they’d been pushing for. Congress passed the PACT Act, promising healthcare benefits for veterans exposed to toxins.
“The veterans that are actually taking advantage of this bill, it has changed their lives so much,” Hauser said.
VA spokesman Terrence Hayes says since the PACT Act was signed, they’ve given out more than $1.4 billion in related benefits. That’s just a start though.
“We’ve only received about 800,000 claims thus far. And this potentially impacts more than 4 million people,” Hayes said.
There’s an important deadline coming up. Impacted veterans have to file a claim or submit an intent to file by Aug. 9 in order to get benefits backdated from when the PACT Act became law.
“That’s 12 months’ worth of monetary benefits. To many families that makes a huge difference,” Hayes said.
Hayes also wants those who were rejected before to apply again, because he says the PACT Act changed things.
“It simplifies the process for veterans. In the past the burden of proof was on the veteran, but no longer is that the case,” Hayes said.
Tim Hauser says the PACT Act has given so many veterans like him hope for the future.
“Finally, somebody somewhere actually cares and we’re actually going to get the help that we need,” Hauser said. “That right there is huge, cause now I know when I pass on my family is going to be taken care of.”
Veterans who want to apply can do that at VA.gov.