As an attorney focusing on veteran’s disability claims, I see firsthand the frustration and heartache veterans often suffer while waiting for their claims to be decided.
Filing a veteran’s disability claim is a notoriously long and tedious process, and despite a new $300 million computer system and over 3300 new claims processors hired, wait time and delays have increased. According to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), the average nationwide wait time for an initial decision on a claim is nearly nine months. Major urban areas have an even longer wait time: 15 months in Chicago, 16 months in New York, and one and a half years in Los Angeles. At the current rate, it would take the VA office in San Diego three years to solve their backlog problem, and that’s only if no additional claims were filed. The Center for Investigative Reporting has created an interactive map to track the backlog at 58 regional VA offices.
Even more troubling is the fact that many veterans are dying while waiting for their benefits. Data obtained from the VA shows that $437 million of retroactive benefits were paid to survivors of almost 19,500 veterans who passed away before ever receiving a check. Three years ago, that number was $8 million to 6400 survivors. This disturbing figure has spurred an unsettling catchphrase among veterans, “delay, deny, wait ‘til I die.” Adding to the problem is the 2011 finding by the Board of Veterans Appeals that errors were made in 73% of the cases it decided.
So what can be done to improve and speed up the process? If you are filing a veteran’s disability claim, it helps to know the basic elements of a claim and what needs to be proven to avoid denial. You must 1) have a disability that currently affects you, 2) the disability must have been caused during your service, and 3) you must provide medical evidence that your disability is related to your service, and that you have been continuing treatment. Having well-documented medical records helps improve your rating, so make sure you are keeping track of all treatments you receive. Also, be sure to respond swiftly to requests from the VA, and avoid submitting the same material time after time as this only contributes to the backlog. However, the most helpful thing you can do is to hire an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to represent you in your case and guide you through the claims process.
My colleagues and I at the Coye Law Firm are dedicated to providing the best care and assistance to veterans trying to obtain their disability benefits. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, we can certainly all agree that we must support those who put their lives on the line for our country. If you or a loved one are trying to file a claim with the VA, contact us at the Coye Law Firm today.