Why are our claims taking so long?To: "~Doc's Updates" <DocsUpdates@docmelson.com>
veterans with pending VA claims have noticed that rating decisions and
other documents are taking longer and longer to come from VA offices. Why?
As with any workload problem, there is no single answer. But many of the VA's
current problems can be traced to the Veterans Claims Assistance Act (VCAA).
Statistics and comments from VA friends indicate that a large number of cases
are being sent back to the regional offices for readjudication based on the
enhanced "duty to assist" from the VCAA. While this new law was a great step
forward and long overdue, there is a noticeable catch-up effect in the VA.
I understand that new people have been hired in some VA offices, but veterans
should be prepared for delays. It takes time to train new people and to
readjudicate claims. New claims keep coming in, and the pressure is on!
I am not an apologist for the VA, but I am a realist. Many of these cases
require time for more development work. If the law had not been changed, many
of those cases would have been denied and those veterans would have been out
With the change in the law, veterans will now have a much better chance of
having their claims service-connected. The price we all pay is delay.
There are several ways you can help the VA help you.
Submit Claim Early
If you are filing a new claim, submit it as soon as possible so that you can
take advantage of an "early effective date." You may get a handsome "past-due
benefits award" when your claim is finally approved.
There are documents you must file when you open a claim. If you don't have
them available, file your claim anyway and then forward these items as soon
as you can. You need a doctor's statement or other evidence that you have a
"current disability," plus your DD Form 214 or some document that verifies
your military service. You may also have documents such as medical records
showing when or how your disability was incurred.
Get all these items together and send them in all at once. If you send them
one at a time, you will get letters from the VA asking for more evidence.
Each time they write to you, your file goes back on the shelf and must take
its turn when your reply arrives. To speed things up, reduce the need for the
VA to write to you.
If you already have a claim pending, the same advice applies. Cut down on the
number of times the VA has to write to you for information. Try to gather
everything they might want into one package and send it to them.
If you are seriously ill (life-threatening) or in serious financial
difficulty (verge of bankruptcy), you can ask the VA to "advance your case on
the docket." This means your case jumps the queue and goes ahead of others
who do not have your problems.
This is a tough standard to meet, and you must prove you are seriously ill or
in financial trouble; but if you convince the VA they should move your case
forward, it can save you a lot of time. After all, for a person seriously ill
or facing bankruptcy, time is your problem and the VA should be sensitive to
Be sure to keep good records. The VA does make mistakes. They may ask for a
document or for medical records that you have already sent them, or they will
decide there was no evidence that you incurred your disability while in
service. That is when good record-keeping pays off.
You can save lots of time and anguish if you can pick the documents you need
out of your file and send them in. I recommend that you keep a complete file
of everything relating to your claim. If you're lucky, you will never need
that file, but the day may come when you will wish you had those documents.
This file is a "time saver" because you don't have to go back to the doctor
for a copy of his statement or search files for the same records. Good
record-keeping makes good sense.
Finally, if you can, be patient! We all hope the VA will not take too long to
process claims, but we should do what we can to help them. The VA employees
don't enjoy being behind, so it is to everyone's advantage to work together.
this day to the ending of the world,
we in it shall be remember'd;
few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
he to-day that sheds his blood with me
be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
day shall gentle his condition:
gentlemen in England now a-bed
think themselves accursed they were not here,
hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day".
Henry V by William Shakespeare