Why Now Is (Really) the Time to Apply for VA Benefits

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Veterans take part in the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, June 6, 2023. (Department of Veterans Affairs)

It's time for a sense of urgency.

I know: You've heard that one before.

Last August, President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act into law, expanding VA health-care eligibility and benefits for the roughly 3 million veterans exposed to Agent Orange, burn pits and other toxic substances in the course of their military service.

So where does the "urgency" come into play?

Those veterans who submit PACT Act benefit applications to the VA by Aug. 9 will be eligible to have granted benefits backdated to August 2022. That backdating could result in a significant amount of money, and in today's inflationary environment, it's money that could make a difference for many veterans and their families.

When I retired from the Army Reserve, the last thing on my mind was applying for VA health care and benefits. Heck, I had my health coverage through USAA, and while I had some health issues related to my 20-plus years of service, going through the process wasn't a priority.

As a financial planner, I should have known better. I was a living example of "do as I say, not as I do." I encouraged others to take advantage of their earned benefits, but it took me years to get around to doing the same.

If your story is similar, consider this a wakeup call. The health care and benefits that the VA offers can provide foundational support to your wellness -- financially, physically and mentally.

Of course, to tap into that support, you need to apply. And while that application can be done at any time, the PACT Act provides some incentive to get after it right now.

Those who have worn the uniform are forever shaped by the service-oriented, resilient and independent culture of military service. This self-reliant approach to life can make it difficult for veterans to ask for help.

Beyond that, it could just be the pace of everything else going on that keeps them from taking advantage of all that the VA offers.

The PACT Act is a great example of our country extending a helping hand. It could also be the inspiration to get you to a better place. Take the time today to accept that help by completing your VA application today.

You earned it. Use it.

 

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