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VA San Diego Health System looks to enroll PACT Act-eligible veterans before Aug. 9

Veterans approved for disability benefits under last year's PACT Act will receive those benefits back-dated to August 2022 if they apply by Aug. 9, according to the Veterans Affairs San Diego Health System.

To help local veterans enroll, VA San Diego is hosting two "VetFests" in Oceanside and Chula Vista ahead of that Aug. 9 deadline.

The PACT Act was signed into law in 2022 by President Joe Biden. The bill expanded VA benefits to a number of conditions linked to toxic exposure after years of advocacy from those affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.


To qualify for benefits, veterans affected by these toxins must be enrolled in VA Health Care and complete a toxic exposure screening. VA representatives will be on-hand at the events to do both.

The PACT Act simplifies how the VA determines eligibility, according to its website. Normally, veterans must prove their health issues are connected to their military service. However, several conditions related to toxic exposure — certain cancers and respiratory diseases — are now presumed to be service-connected, meaning veterans do not have to prove so to receive benefits.

Frank Pearson, the CEO of the VA San Diego Health System, said any veteran exposed to toxins should apply, even if their health issues are not listed on the VA's website.

"Everything is is being considered." Pearson said. "There's not a list that says ‘no, this isn't going to be considered.'"

Survivors of veterans who have died are also eligible, according to the VA.


The VetFests aren't only for PACT-Act eligible veterans. Representative will be available to help any veteran enroll in the VA Health System.

The VetFests will be at the Oceanside VA Clinic Saturday, July 15 and at the Chula Vista Veterans Center Aug. 5.

More information on the PACT Act is available on the VA's website.

Corrected: July 20, 2023 at 9:50 AM PDT
Editor's note: In an earlier version of this web story we listed the incorrect date of Chula Vista's Summer Vetfest. The date has been corrected, we apologize for that error.