Backlog of Veteran Disability Claims
By Military Connection Staff Writer Carol Miraula.
In the past three years, the backlog of veterans disability claims past 125 days has increased from 180,000 to over 600,000. Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki finds these long waits unacceptable. Secretary Shinseki has implemented an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog by 2015. The new initiative includes a one-year safety-net for the Veteran to present additional evidence. The initiative includes processing the oldest disability claims first. The VA’s new paperless processing system will expedite newer disability claims more efficiently and faster.
The VA gives priority to homeless Veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims. The Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Program is the fastest way of getting a compensation claim or pension claim processed. Participation in the FDC Program allows for faster claims processing, while preserving the right to appeal a decision. Some Veteran disability claims have been on the back burner for a year or more. To expedite claim approval information go to: http://www.benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/.
The Department of Defense handles Wounded Warrior claims through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). Wounded Warriors separating through IDES currently receive VA compensation benefits on an average of 61 days following their separation from the service. Although Veterans are still eligible to receive health care and other benefits from the VA while their disability claims are pending, many are frustrated at the deteriorating claims crisis. Nearly one million veterans now wait nine months for a Veteran Benefits Administration claim decision.
Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998 are eligible for an extended period of eligibility for health care for 5 years post discharge. Currently, more than 55 percent of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are using VA health care, a rate of utilization greater than previous generations of veterans. The 5-year enrollment period begins on the discharge or separation date of the service member from active duty military service, or in the case of multiple call-ups, the most recent discharge date.
As older disability claims are processed and cleared electronically through the VA’s new paperless processing system, the VA’s average time to complete claims will significantly improve. Hopefully, the new VA paperless processing system will eliminate the Veteran Benefits Claim backlog. In the meantime, many veterans are unable to pay their bills and some are even losing their homes.
Veterans can learn more about disability benefits on the joint Department of Defense-VA Web portal eBenefits at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal/ebenefits.portal.