VA Claims Processing Still Lags

VA Claims Processing Still Lags

Reports all over the web are saying that the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) is making significant improvements in the timeframe necessary to decide disability claims. But this only tells half of the story. The VA itself claims to have made substantial improvements by upgrading and digitizing its databases and claims handling procedures. But many are still experiencing delays in the VA claim process.

Decision vs. Success

Just getting a decision is not terribly difficult. If you are using the fully developed claims (FDC) process recommended by VA, your claim may be decided in as quickly as 30 days. However, don’t expect your claim to be granted. In fact, a 2015 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) demonstrated that as many as 80 percent of all VA disability claims are initially denied.  VA says the FDC process is faster, but this isn’t quite true. According to the VA:

“By filing an FDC, Veterans and survivors take charge of their claim by providing all the evidence at once. By then certifying that there is no more evidence, VA can issue a decision faster.”

Notice that the VA is offering to get to the decision faster. That’s not much help to the veterans who are routinely denied benefits.

Veterans are Still Waiting a Long Time to See Doctors

In 2014, the VA performed an internal audit, which revealed that 57,000 veterans had waited as long as 90 days for an initial appointment. Similarly, as National Public Radio (NPR) reports, the audit also uncovered that as much as 13 percent of VA appointment schedulers were falsifying records to meet goals, thereby making the situation look better than it was. This all led to the resignation of the VA’s then Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki.  Following the scandal, Congress allocated an additional $10 billion to fix the problem. The solution? The Veterans Choice Program.

NPR reports that as of 2016, veteran wait times are actually getting worse, following the alleged fix. As many as 70,000 veterans are now facing delays of more than 90 days.

Wait Times Affect Claims

When a veteran first files a claim, the VA will generally schedule the veteran for a compensation and pension evaluation, often referred to as the “C&P evaluation.” During this exam, a VA healthcare provider performs some type of evaluation to determine the nature and extent of the injury or illness and attempts to determine whether it could be related to service. Sadly, however, for veterans who have experienced lengthy delays getting treatment, there are often long treatment gaps between the onset of a condition and initial treatment.

Some veterans, frustrated with delays and inefficiencies, simply fail to seek treatment through the VA for years after leaving military service. Then, upon filing a claim, it becomes much harder to relate their condition to military service. In short, VA routinely uses a veteran’s failure to seek treatment as the ground for denying claims, even where the reason for the treatment gap was created by VA itself.

How a VA Accredited Attorney Can Help

If you have a service-connected disability and were denied disability compensation through the VA, you have strict time limits on filing your appeal. The VA system is very complex, and local service officers are often ill-prepared to handle more complex cases. While no attorney can guarantee your claim will be approved or decided any faster, having an experienced VA disability lawyer on your side can give you a much better chance of success. The accredited attorneys of Klok Law Firm LLC can work to ensure your appeal is timely filed and your rights preserved.

Contact us today for help.