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VA wants vets to submit benefits claims before looming summer deadline

The Department of Veterans Affairs said this week it’s reaching out to veterans and their survivors to encourage them to complete the submission of benefits claims before a deadline elapses this summer that would cause them to lose out on compensation.

An estimated 300,000 active, yet to be filed claims remain open from last summer following a push for veterans exposed to toxic substances to file for disability payouts, VA Under Secretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs told reporters on a press call Wednesday.

Veterans or their survivors may submit an “intent to file” if not yet ready to submit an official benefits claim, essentially using a placeholder to ensure their eligibility to receive back pay to the earliest effective date for that claim. They are then given one year to file the actual claim, Jacobs said.

While the outreach campaign is targeted at those with incomplete claim submissions, many veterans specifically took advantage of that option in the wake of a major expansion to VA health care benefits for those exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. In fact, more than 1 million disability benefits claims have been approved thanks to that law, officials confirmed this week.

In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act, into law. Veterans and their families were then given until August 2023 to submit their claim — or an intent to file — to have their payouts backdated a year to when the bill was signed.

After a big push from the department last summer to file a PACT Act-related claim before that eligibility for retrospective benefits expired, the department received almost 840,000 intents to file between June 1 and August 14, 2023. Of those, more than 450,000 claims were later received, Jacobs said.

“We are proactively reaching out by email, text and phone calls to all of those who submitted an [intent to file] between June and August of last year,” Jacobs said, noting the department will be encouraging those who did not yet finalize their formal claim to do so before the one year window from when they submitted an intent to file is closed.

Filing a claim can be done online, at a local VA regional office, by mail, by fax or through an accredited representative, Jacobs said.

“As we’re doing this outreach, we’re not only going to work to connect with these 300,000 veterans, but we’re going to learn from this process so that as we move forward and continue to proactively engage veterans who’ve submitted an intent to file we can do so with a better understanding of what’s getting in their way so we can overcome it,” Jacobs said.

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