Millions of Toxic-Exposed Veterans Eligible for Expanded VA Health Care, Thanks to Tester’s PACT Act

Following Tester’s efforts, VA announced today it will expand health care eligibility to any veteran exposed to toxins and other hazards serving in the military

(U.S. Senate) – Following years-long efforts by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester to expand toxic-exposed veterans’ access to health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that all veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving in the military will be eligible to enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits, beginning March 5.

VA’s move to expand health care for toxic-exposed veterans follows Tester’s Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which extended VA health care eligibility for veterans exposed to toxins during their military service. Today’s announcement marks a rapid expansion in health care for any veterans exposed to toxins during their service.

“Generations of veterans answered the call to serve and came home changed, and it’s our duty to ensure they have health care that meets their needs,” Tester said. “I’m glad to see VA announcing they will honor this nation’s promise by expanding health care eligibility for toxic-exposed veterans immediately, rather than waiting for a years-long phase-in. This is exactly why we fought to pass the PACT Act—to expand health care access for millions of veterans without the red tape that has turned too many folks away in the past.”

VA’s announcement means that veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, or any other combat zone after 9/11 will be eligible to enroll directly in VA health care. Veterans who never deployed but were exposed to toxins or hazards while training or on active duty in the U.S. will also be eligible to enroll. VA’s decision to expand health care eligibility will allow millions of veterans to become eligible for VA health care up to eight years earlier than originally intended.

Tester championed the PACT Act and shepherded its passage through Congress in 2022. As Chairman, he fought tirelessly for years alongside veterans and Veterans Service Organizations in Montana and across the nation to deliver generations of toxic-exposed veterans and survivors their earned health care and benefits under the PACT Act. Named after Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson who died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service, this law provides health care for Post-9/11 combat veterans, creates a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure, expands VA’s list of health conditions presumed to be caused by toxic exposures, which opens the door to additional benefits for veterans, and improves resources to support claims processing.

Since the PACT Act was signed into law in August 2022, more than 112,000 veterans have enrolled in VA health care under a PACT Act enrollment authority. VA has also received more than 1.4 million PACT Act-related claims and more than 694,000 veterans and survivors are receiving PACT Act-related benefits.

Toxic-exposed veterans and survivors can apply today for health care and benefits at or by calling 1-800-MYVA411.