Report Says VA Wait Times Long and Growing
Virginia Beach, VA (Law Firm Newswire) April 24, 2013 – A new report says wait times and claims backlogs for veterans filing for disability are growing.
The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has released a report detailing the findings of a lengthy review of internal documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The report shows that delays encountered by first-time applicants for veterans disability benefits are much longer than the VA has previously acknowledged.
Virginia veteran’s attorney Andrew Hook commented, “We owe it to our veterans to ensure they get the benefits they deserve and were promised, and in a timely manner. The findings in this report are deeply troubling.”
The wait time for all veterans applying for disability compensation is widely reported by the VA as an average of 273 days. However, internal data, obtained by the CIR under a Freedom of Information Act request and authenticated by the VA, contain more discouraging figures. A newly-returning veteran who files a first-time claim can expect to wait between 316 and 327 days for approval. Those who file in America’s larger cities have a wait time between 542 and 642 days.
The number of veterans waiting over one year for benefits grew from 11,000 in 2009 to 245,000 in December, 2012 – a 20-fold increase.
VA spokesman, Joshua Taylor blamed the lengthened delays on a 50 percent increase in the total number of claims filed. Taylor cited three factors contributing to the increase in claims: large numbers of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; Vietnam veterans filing claims for illnesses newly attributed to Agent Orange; and, recently-relaxed VA rules regarding claims for Gulf War illness and PTSD.
The documents obtained by CIR show that while the VA has spent over half a billion dollars readying a computerized claims processing system over the past four years, 97 percent of all claims are still processed on paper.
Taylor said the computer system would be implemented at all regional VA offices by the end of 2013.
Hook added, “Wait times for processing disability claims are often far too long, but attorneys with expertise in VA matters can work to minimize those delays. Anyone seeking disability benefits should speak with an experienced attorney.”
The elder law attorneys and estate planning lawyers at the Hook Law Center in Virginia Beach and Suffolk, help Virginia families with wills, trust & estate administration, guardianships, long term care planning, special needs planning, veterans benefits, and more.
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