What is the PACT Act and how does it affect VA facilities?

The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act was signed into law during the summer of 2022 as part of an effort to expand healthcare for America’s veterans and their families. It has been called “the most significant expansion of VA health care in 30 years.”

What does this bill aim to address? How will it help vets? What does it mean for VA facilities?

We answer all those questions and more below.

What is the PACT Act of 2022?

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act — abbreviated as the PACT Act — is a law that expands VA healthcare and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. According to the VA, it is “perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history.”

Here are some of the ways the PACT Act will help veterans:

  • Gives post-9/11 combat veterans more time to enroll in VA healthcare — Previously, those who served in combat after 9/11 only had five years post-discharge to enroll. The PACT Act expands the enrollment period to 10 years.
  • Gives all combat veterans a one-year open enrollment period for VA benefits — Previously, combat veterans were required to demonstrate a service-connected disability to enroll in VA benefits. That is no longer the case.
  • Codifies new protocol for assessing and diagnosing exposure effects — The VA is now required to seek independent evaluations and external input on its process for determining whether conditions are related to toxic exposure.
  • Eliminates some service connection proof requirements — Some veterans are no longer required to prove service connection if they are diagnosed with certain respiratory conditions or forms of cancer.
  • Requires the VA to expand their research efforts — Under the PACT Act, the VA must invest in new studies related to veteran health trends.
  • Implements mandatory screenings for exposure-related concerns — All veterans enrolled in VA healthcare must now be screened regularly for conditions related to toxic exposure.
  • Establishes a toxic exposure outreach program — The VA will now reach out to veterans to offer support, benefits and education regarding toxic exposure.

How does the PACT Act affect VA facilities?

This bill is estimated to cost around $300 billion over the next 10 years, although it is unclear how that money will be allocated.

Either way, it promises “critical resources to VA to ensure it can deliver timely access to services and benefits for all veterans eligible” and to “provide VA with mechanisms to enhance claims processing and to increase the workforce.”

So while we don’t know how the PACT Act will affect VA funding, we do know that VA facilities will almost certainly ramp up their staffing efforts over the next decade. There is an increased need not only for doctors and healthcare specialists but for administrators, technicians and other personnel.

VA operators might consider partnering with third-party healthcare providers to ensure that they’re equipped to meet the influx of patients and administrative work.

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