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Congressman Brian Higgins addresses the media. (Submitted photo)
Congressman Brian Higgins addresses the media. (Submitted photo)

Higgins & Buffalo VA urge eligible WNY veterans to apply for PACT Act benefits


Wed, Aug 2nd 2023 09:45 pm

Veterans have until Aug. 9 to file for retroactive benefits; outreach events scheduled

Congressman Brian Higgins was joined by leaders from the Buffalo VA Medical Center and local veterans to raise awareness about the new benefits available to veterans under the PACT Act, and to encourage Western New York veterans and families to apply.

“Veterans who bravely defended this nation, putting their lives and health on the line, have too often been made to jump through hoops to get the care and benefits they deserve. That changes with the PACT Act,” he said. “Thanks to this common-sense law, thousands of Western New York veterans will be eligible to receive quality VA care. We encourage them to apply.”

Donna Mallia, director, Veterans Benefits Administration North Atlantic District, said, “As of July 30, 2023, the Buffalo RO has received 4,508 claims with 921 pending claims. We have processed 3,587 claims and granted 2,858 claims for a 79.6% grant rate. Finally, we have paid benefits in the amount of $11,339,309.30. The grant rate (Buffalo RO) is consistent with the nationwide grant rate of 79%. In addition, some veterans are worried that applying for PACT Act benefits will impact their current VA benefits, but the truth is that, if a veteran files a claim, there is a 97% chance that their benefits will either increase or stay the same.”

Higgins’s team said, “The PACT Act makes nearly 3.5 million veterans across the country eligible for the care and benefits they earned, without having to go through an arduous process of proving their illness is connected to their service. Veterans with 23 classified conditions are presumed to be eligible. The legislation ensures veterans who were exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, Gulf War toxins, and radiation are eligible for benefits.

“As of mid-July, 744,701 veterans and survivors nationwide have filed PACT Act-related claims. Congressman Higgins’ district alone is home to an estimated 38,554 veterans; to date 1,161 PACT Act-related claims from veterans in NY-26 have been received.

“Veterans who file PACT Act-related claims or an intent to file a claim by Aug. 9, 2023, will be eligible to receive retroactive benefits backdated to the date when the bill was signed on Aug. 10, 2022. Claims filed after Aug. 9, 2023, will continue to be processed but not eligible for retroactive benefits.

“A surviving spouse, dependent child, or the parent of a veteran who died from a service-connected condition may also be eligible for benefits.”

Higgins and the Buffalo VA have hosted several PACT Act enrollment events over the past year, with more scheduled in the months ahead. Below is a list of upcoming outreach events:

√ Tuesday, Aug. 8, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Walden Galleria (near Lord & Taylor)

√ Wednesday, Aug. 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Walden Galleria (near Lord & Taylor) 

√ Tuesday, Aug. 29, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Buffalo Stand Down, WNY Heroes, 1001 E. Delavan Ave.

√ Wednesday, Sept. 13, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Springville VA Clinic, 231 South Cascade Drive

√ Thursday, Sept. 14, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Dunkirk VA Clinic, 1170 Central Ave.

√ Tuesday, Oct. 3, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Jamestown VA Clinic, 321 Hazeltine Ave.

Higgins supported the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act). Signed into law on Aug. 10, 2022, the bill represents one of the largest expansions of health benefits in VA history.

Veterans and their families can find more information on PACT Act benefits by visiting VA.gov/pact or by calling 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411) (TTY: 711).

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