On October 1st, 2022, the VA first stage of healthcare eligibility expansion under the PACT Act went into effect.
The Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 (known as “Honoring our PACT Act of 2021”) was signed into law by the President in August. Immediately effective at that time were the changes to the Presumptive Lists, but its many other changes will slowly be rolled out over the next few years, starting with the first stage of healthcare eligibility expansion now in effect.
This change now makes hundreds of thousands of toxic-exposed veterans eligible for VA healthcare, including Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 veterans as detailed below.
Here are the full healthcare eligibility changes that are now in effect:
1. For Post-9/11 veterans, the deadline for healthcare enrollment has been extended from 5 to 10 years. If you missed your 10-year window, you can enroll within the next year if you:
- Served on active duty in a theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War, or
- Served in a combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after Nov. 11, 1998, and
- Were discharged or released from active service between Sept. 11, 2001, and Oct. 1, 2013.
2. Vietnam veterans are now eligible for full medical care, including nursing home care, for any illness if they served in the following locations during the following times:
- The Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975;
- Thailand at any U.S. or Royal Thai base between Jan. 9, 1962, and June 30, 1976;
- Laos between Dec. 1, 1965, and Sept. 30, 1969;
- Certain provinces in Cambodia between April 16, 1969, and April 30, 1969;
- Guam or American Samoa (or their territorial waters) between Jan. 9, 1962, and July 31, 1980;
- Johnston Atoll (or on a ship that called there) between Jan. 1, 1972, and Sept. 30, 1977.
While those are the only groups now eligible for VA healthcare, additional healthcare eligibility expansion is on the way over the next few years for toxic-exposed veterans.
Toxic-exposed veterans will eventually be eligible for full medical care, including nursing home care, for any illness. To qualify, the veteran must have
- served in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, or the United Arab Emirates on or after August 2, 1990
- served in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Uzbekistan, or the Philippines on or after September 11, 2001
- deployed in support of a contingency operation (Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Inherent Resolve, and Resolute Support Mission); or
- participated in an activity that risked toxic exposure.
The effective dates for these additional expansions are staggered based on the veteran’s separation date:
- Veterans who were discharged between August 2, 1990 and September 11, 2001 will be eligible on October 1, 2024.
- Veterans who were discharged between September 12, 2001 and December 31, 2006 will be eligible on October 1, 2026.
- Veterans who were discharged between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2012 will be eligible on October 1, 2028.
- Veterans who were discharged between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2028 will be eligible on October 1, 2030.
If you are now eligible for benefits, you can apply online.