VA to Make Provisional Decisions on Some Pending Disability Claims
Posted on May 04, 2013
Veterans receive disability compensation for injuries and illnesses that are acquired or aggravated during their active duty military service. The amount of the compensation offered is based on a disability rating assigned by the VA.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been criticized for taking too long to decide pending disability claims. More than 250,000 of the 900,000 pending Veteran’s Administration disability claims belong to veterans who have been waiting at least one year for a decision. A new program will give these veterans priority.
VA undersecretary Allison Hickey says that provisional decisions will be made on the oldest VA disability cases based only on the evidence currently in the veteran’s file. If medical exams are required, the exams will be expedited. Veterans whose claims are granted will be eligible for immediate compensation. Those veterans whose claims are denied will have a year to submit supporting documents before a final decision is made. Hickey estimates that it will take about six months to make provisional decisions on the 250,000 oldest claims.
Lawmakers have approved of the plan to focus on the oldest claims but say that it does not solve all the problems that the VA faces. The number of backlogged disability claims has grown over the past four years. In 2009, it took an average of 161 days to process a claim. It now takes an average of 286 days. The backlog is the result of ten years of war, aging veterans, Agent Orange claims, and paper files. While the VA is transferring to a computer-based system, that system will not be active in all offices until the end of the year.
Traditionally, top priority for disability claims has been given to homeless and terminally ill veterans and soldiers who are separating from the military for medical reasons. These veterans will retain top-priority status.
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