Friday, August 16, 2013

VA Backlog Initiative To Process Oldest Veteran Benefit Claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it is launching a compensation claims initiative for vets who have been waiting for one year or more.

Claims raters working with the VA have been combing through the oldest claims in the system to allow those vets to get their benefits, if eligible. The Veterans Administration has announced that vets who are waiting for their claim to be processed are able to submit additional materials as evidence up to one full year after their provisional rating and prior to the VA issuing its final decision on their claim. Provisional decisions are intended to provide vets with their benefits faster and also will allow them the safety of an additional year to submit additional evidence if necessary. Those cases will be "fast-traced," said the Undersecretary for Benefits, Allison Hickey.
In tandem with this initiative, VA has announced that it still intends to prioritize the benefits claims of veterans who are homeless as well as the benefits claims for former prisoners of war, terminally ill vets, vets who claim financial hardship, and recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Decisions on benefit claims will be predicated on the evidence submitted, if needed, medical exams will be ordered and processed expeditiously. If an increase of a benefit is determined after additional evidence is submitted, those benefit payment will be paid retroactively to the initial claim file date.

This new initiative is also designed to allow a vet to appeal a decision, including lower benefits than expected, a denial of claim or another issue. The vet will have one full year to submit additional evidence, after which, the VBA will contact the vet to inform them that their rating has been determined and will provide standard appeal information. 

The plan is that, as the oldest claims are processed, the average claim competition time through the VA's system will improve and the average number of days a claim is in the benefits inventory will dramatically decrease.

During the pending phase of compensation claims, vets who are eligible can receive their healthcare benefits from the VA. Vets from recent conflicts are currently eligible for as many as five years of VA healthcare for free. More than 55 percent of vets who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan are now using VA health care.

Wounded Warrior claims, meanwhile, are continuing to be processed separately with Department of Defense via the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). Vets designated as "Wounded Warriors" are receiving their VA compensation benefits just 61 days, on average, after separating from military service.

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