Is Department of Veterans Affairs Fixing the Backlog or Covering Up
The Department of Veterans Affairs has received national attention over the past few months for its deceptive practices with respect to health care treatment. As that issue continues to enrage and sadden, the office is again in the news, this time for deceptive practices related to veterans disability benefits claims. This is the first step in the process; a veteran’s claim must be approved before they can even see a VA doctor.
In some ways, the root of the problem lies in good intentions. President Obama has promised to eliminate the large back-log on VA benefits claims. With at least hundreds of thousands of claims pending, this is an admirable and necessary goal.
The problem is that the Department of Veterans Affairs seems to have developed a new method for counting backlogged claims rather than a more efficient system for handling them. A recent article alleges that the VA’s claim that they reduced the backlog from 611,000 to 344,000 claims is deceptive. They only counted the claims that have been pending for over 4 months. A total of over 1 million claims are actually outstanding.
Department of Veterans Affairs Faces Staggering Appeals Backlog
The article reveals an even more disheartening state of affairs when it comes to the number of Veterans Affairs appeals. An appeal occurs after the applicant veteran’s initial claim for benefits has been denied; 275,000 appeals are apparently still pending. Additionally, these were not included in the VA’s original count of 344,000 claims, meaning that appeals are calculated separately. Currently, it takes an average of four years before the appeal is decided. One report alleges that over 19,000 veterans died while awaiting this decision. It is unclear how many of the deaths can be attributed to the lack of benefits and how many would have occurred even if treatment was received.
Veterans Can’t Wait for Help
Think about it this way: individuals are applying for disability benefits because they need medical treatment currently. They are not applying because they are anticipating needing treatment four years in the future. It is well known that early treatment is the most effective treatment and timing can make the difference between life and death when health is involved.
The VA is in the process of suggesting new regulations, which are discussed in more detail in the above referenced article. However, it seems that these regulations, which seek to move away from informal claims and make the system more formalized, would make it even more difficult for non-attorney veterans to understand and navigate the process. There will no doubt be heavy opposition to these proposed regulations.
One of the most disheartening aspects of the issues associated with filing for veterans disability benefits is that many veterans with legitimate claims simply accept their initial denial or denial upon appeal. They have placed trust in the Department of Department of Veterans Affairs and assume the decision was properly decided. With the current state of affairs though, an initial denial does not mean much.
It is worth contacting a veterans disability attorney who can analyze your case, advise you on its strength, and advocate on your behalf if you have a valid claim for benefits. Having an attorney who can fill this role can and does make a difference.
If your veterans disability benefits application or appeal has been denied, do not give up. Contact the experienced attorneys at the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group today.