VA reports significant increase in veteran care following passage of Toxic Substances Exposure Act

Veterans care in the United States set a record in fiscal year 2023, “shattering” the agency’s performance in previous years, due in large part to a extension of benefits under the Biden administration, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said Monday.

McDonough spoken at the National Press Club, less than a week before Veterans Day and a little more than a year after President Joe Biden signed legislation making benefits eligible for up to 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans and those , who served during the Vietnam War, and the Cold War eras.

MORE: Military members deserve our thanks, they also deserve access to comprehensive health care

Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson appreciates our commitment to address the Comprehensive Toxics Act PACT Actassumes that there are around two dozen chronic conditions and illnesses supposed This can be caused by inhaling toxins from open burn pits or exposure to other hazards, including Agent Orange and radiation.

“Since President Biden took office, VA has provided more care and benefits to more veterans than ever before. When it comes to the benefits veterans have earned and deserve, we are processing their claims faster than ever before,” McDonough said over lunch in downtown Washington, DC

Screening for effects of toxic exposure

Under the new law, the VA has screened nearly 4.6 million veterans for lasting effects of toxic exposure during their deployments, according to Department of Veterans Affairs figures released Monday.

On the one-year anniversary of the law’s passage, Biden said said More than $1.85 billion in PACT Act-related benefits had reached veterans and families.

The bill received broad bipartisan support in both chambers in the summer of 2022, but was held for weeks At the end of the trial, after Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania retired, he rallied Republican colleagues to block a final procedural vote to protest the funding provision that had been in the bill all along.

Among the statistics Veterans Affairs highlighted Monday:

• Just over 1.5 million veterans and survivors received $163 billion in benefits (of which $150 billion went to compensation and pension payments).
• Veterans filed 2.4 million claims, up 39% from 2022.
• Just over 1.9 million veterans and survivors’ claims were processed, a 15.9% increase from the previous record.
• 116 million healthcare appointments were made, surpassing the previous record by 3 million.
• The Veterans Crisis Line received approximately 1 million calls, texts and chats, a 15.1% increase over the hotline’s previous record.

• Free emergency care was provided to 33,542 acute suicidal crises as part of a new emergency program started in January.

McDonough attributed the increased usage and services to improved digital tools, including telehealth options and a “refurbished”, which now serves as “the digital front door for all services VA offers to veterinarians.”

“As a result, veterinarians’ trust in VA has grown significantly. Again, it’s not 100%, but it’s stronger,” McDonough said.

According to the agency Opinion poll When measuring trust in the VA, 78.9% of veterans expressed their current VA-wide trust in the third quarter of 2023, a decrease of 0.4% since the survey last quarter.

When broken down by gender, 80% of male veterans expressed confidence, compared to 71.2% of female veterans.

McDonough also cited a hiring boom at the agency that has resulted in more claims being processed.

“This has been a year in which we have hired at a record pace while maintaining our record staff, but otherwise not our non-excellent staff,” he said.

McDonough said the Veterans Benefits Administration now employs more than 32,000 people.

“The claims process is predominantly driven by an easy entry point with more people reviewing claims. So this is one way to address this problem,” McDonough said.

The number of living veterans was estimated at 16.2 million, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey.

Veterans can contact the agency for benefits information or sign up for a toxicity screening at or by calling 1-800-MyVA411.

Veterans experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts should dial 988 or chat at

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