Amid increased volumes of PACT Act-related claims, the U.S. Senate confirmed Joshua Jacobs as undersecretary for benefits in a 74-25 vote Wednesday.
Before his confirmation, Jacobs served as the senior advisor for policy performing the delegable duties of the undersecretary for benefits since July 2022, succeeding Thomas Murphy, where he led more than 25,000 VBA employees and oversaw the execution of nearly $135 billion in direct benefits to veterans and their dependents.
"Mr. Jacobs comes before the Senate at a critical moment for the VA, as he will be the one responsible for overseeing the implementation of PACT Act benefits. To date, the VA has already completed 191,000 PACT claims; 80% of which have been granted. I'm proud to say, as Senior Advisor, Mr. Jacobs has already done great work at the VA pushing these benefits out the door, and he's clearly the right man for the position,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday announcing the cloture vote on the nomination of Jacobs to serve as undersecretary for benefits.
The confirmation comes at a critical time, as the benefits arm processes a new surge of claims following the passage of the PACT Act in Aug. 2022. Jacobs is leading the charge on delivering benefits to veterans quickly and combating the current backlog.
As of April 26, veterans and their survivors have filed more than 500,000 claims for toxic exposure-related benefits under the PACT Act since the law was enacted. To date, VA has awarded more than $1 billion in earned benefits to veterans and survivors who filed PACT Act-related claims.
“This week, our administration reached a critical milestone as a direct result of this law: veterans and survivors submitted 500,000 PACT Act-related claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs and three million veterans received toxic exposure screenings since August. My Administration is processing claims at record rates, and is delivering on our sacred obligation to care for America’s veterans and their families,” President Joe Biden said in an April 26 statement.
Jacobs is implementing a “people, process, technology” approach to tackle the claims influx. VBA is leveraging automated decision support tools and enacting a new hiring strategy.
“We've been doing everything we can to expedite the processing of claims and make sure that we're prepared to start delivering benefits of veterans who've been waiting, in many cases, for far too long,” Jacobs said during a Dec. 2022 media briefing.
Prior to serving as the senior advisor for policy performing the delegable duties of the undersecretary for benefits, Jacobs was the senior advisor for policy in the Office of the Secretary, where he helped to design and implement a new framework for enterprise governance and policy development. He also established and chaired the Evidence Based Policy Council to drive enterprise policy making.
“Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors deserve world-class benefits for their service to our country, and there’s nobody better to lead VA in delivering those benefits than Josh Jacobs,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Josh is an excellent leader who has dedicated his career to advocating for veterans — and under his leadership, I’m confident that VA will continue delivering more benefits, more quickly, to more veterans than ever before.”