Dependent family members of veterans who died from illnesses covered by the PACT Act may reapply for survivor's benefits if they've had a claim denied in the past.
The PACT Act dramatically expanded benefits to veterans and survivors by adding to the list of diseases that the agency acknowledges are service-connected. President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act into law Aug. 10, 2022, and it took effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday a proposed rule specifying the effective date of any renewed claim.
By automatically accepting that about two dozen more diseases are service-connected and adding to the list of presumptive illnesses for Agent Orange exposure, the act gave millions of veterans who were exposed to radiation and toxic chemicals while in uniform, going back to the 1960s, the opportunity for benefits.
The act also required that the VA give survivors who were previously denied those benefits another chance to apply for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The program provides compensation to dependents of service members who died in the line of duty or from a service-connected disease or injury.
The VA posted a draft addition to the U.S. Code on Monday, providing a 60-day window for public comments on the proposed new rule. The public comment period will start Wednesday.
The VA estimates in the draft rule that 14,828 "respondents" -- defined as "primarily" survivors of deceased veterans -- in fiscal 2023 could apply to have their claims reevaluated. There is no deadline by which time a survivor must reapply.
Reevaluated claims that are approved will generally use the date the original claim was submitted for benefits calculations.
The VA will contact survivors using the same communications method employed when survivors were told that their claim was denied. The department will also publish a notice on its website, along with conducting additional outreach, such as through veterans service organizations, to try to reach potential beneficiaries, according to the draft rule.
-- Amanda Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.