Wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, along with recently approved Vietnam vets, are stretching resources to the limit at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which is resulting in a serious backlog of disability claims.
About 624,000 of the 2.2 million recent war veterans-28 percent-have filed disability claims, and more claims are expected. In addition, in 2010, the VA changed its stance on Agent Orange exposure, opening the door to disability claims by more than 200,000 Vietnam veterans.
Although 1 million disability claims were processed at the VA within the last year, another 1.3 million new claims were filed. Today, pending disability claims total 853,831, up nearly 100,000 over 2011 levels and nearly 500,000 since 2009.
"Nearly 1 million veterans today are stuck in the backlog and more than half wait at least half a year to find out if their claim has been processed," said Florida Representative Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in a recent Washingtonpost.com article.
System Upgrades Aim to Provide Prompt and Accurate Claims Processing
In response, the VA is making efforts to reduce the backlog in disability claims. A 20 percent budget increase in 2012- to $2 billion- should give the Veterans Benefits Administration the resources required to speed service to veterans. In addition, a newly launched system of paperless claims processing is expected to significantly cut the backlog. Tested in Rhode Island and Utah, the high-tech system is scheduled to go national during the summer of 2012. Finally, the VA and the Department of Defense have been systematically standardizing their complex disability rating systems since 2009- dual systems that have plagued veterans since they were introduced after World War II. Healthcare experts are expected to complete the overhaul in 2016, according to Fiercehealth.com.
An expanded budget, technology tools and streamlined systems should enable the VA to achieve its goal to process every veteran's disability compensation claim within 125 days and with 98 percent accuracy. Once complete, the claims filing process is touted to be similar to online tax-preparation, with interview-style software interface to guide users through the process. Average claims are expected to take 30 to 45 minutes.
While plans are in place for improvement in the veterans disability system, at present many veterans are still waiting for much needed benefits assistance. If you are a veteran, who was injured while serving in the armed forces, you may be eligible for disability benefits. Speak to an attorney experienced in veteran's disability claims to help guide you through the process and obtain the compensation you deserve.