VA Mass Hiring Employees to Help with PACT Act Claims!

The Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to continue growing their benefits division’s workforce through the end of the fiscal year, to tackle an influx of claims growing since the summer. 

As of January 1st, 2023, the VA began processing all claims submitted under the PACT Act, which worked to enable a historic expansion of eligibility for VA health care and benefits. 

The legislation, which was previously signed into law by President Joe Biden, is expected to bring in over 3.5 million Veterans into VA care. 

Josh Jacobs, the Acting Undersecretary for Benefits, told reporters in December that the VA is “actively working to hire more” employees throughout 2023. 

Jacobs went on to say that they are using the new PACT Act authorities and funding to hire an additional 1,900 employees in the first half of 2023. 

“The bottom line is we want to send a message to Veterans that we’re ready,” said Jacobs. “We’re excited to implement the PACT Act and we want you to apply now so that we can deliver the care and benefits that you deserve and have earned.” 

PACT Act, VA, Veterans
Beyond recruiting and hiring, Jacobs (seen here) said that they are also focused on training all employees on how to handle PACT Act claims. PACT Act training began at the beginning of this past December and the agency has trained about 50% of their total workforce so far. 

As of today, the Department of Veterans Affairs has received over 210,000 PACT Act-related claims for benefits since President Biden signed the legislation this past August. 

The agency has said that they have also conducted over 950,000 toxic exposure screenings of Veterans, and 39% have reported a concern about toxic exposure.  

In addition to the VA’s 1,900-employee hiring goal, Jacobs said that they are “actively working to hire more” employees and plans to bring on an additional 2,500 employees by the end of this year. 

“We’re continuing to build on that foundation and delivering more benefits quickly to more Veterans,” said Jacobs. 

Beyond recruiting and hiring, Jacobs said that they are also focused on training all employees on how to handle PACT Act claims. 

PACT Act training began at the beginning of this past December and the agency has trained about 50% of their total workforce so far. 

Each employee receives 15 hours of training on the PACT Act, and the agency said that they complete, on average, at least 5,000 of training on any given day. 

“That’s an important investment upfront,” said Jacobs. “That is critical for us to be able to make the right decision the first time we process the claim.” 

As for now, the VA is anticipating that their backlog will increase as it takes on an additional workload due to the PACT Act. 

“We’re going to have a dip in production that will ultimately come back up,” said Jacobs. 

The VA backlog peaked at about 260,000 claims in October 2021, and it is currently under 170,000 claims as of this article’s writing.  

Jacobs went on to say that they also added in new automation decision support tools at eight regional offices as part of a pilot program and that those new tools will be used to help claims processors pull information from Veterans’ records faster and more accurately.  

The VA began fully processing PACT Act claims for all Veterans at the start of the new year but began processing claims for terminally ill Veterans on December 12th, 2022. 

They have received 2,600 PACT Act claims from terminally ill Veterans so far, and have granted 200 of those claims to date, paying out approximately $3.4 million in benefits. 

The VA also hosted a PACT Act Week of Action from Dec., 10th to Dec. 17th and hosted more than 120 events across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. 

They plan to continue their outreach to Veterans throughout 2023. 

“It absolutely doesn’t stop Jan. 1st, we’re going to keep pushing hard,” Jacobs said. 

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