VA disability claims are an important benefit for Veterans because they have done some of the most important work in the world, not only without complaint, but with discipline and honor. However, there is a backlog in unprocessed claims for Veterans disability pay because the Veterans Affairs system is backlogged. The VA is in the process of reforming their systems to reduce the wait, but with the right preparation you can prevent your claim from being lost in the mix.
45% of America’s 1.6 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are actively seeking service-related disability claims. In 2013, this high demand resulted in a VA backlog of around 608,000 cases. The average wait time peaked at 282 days, causing returning soldiers to live with physical and psychological impairments for months at a time before receiving compensation.
The process is getting smoother, but the system is still making improvements. Returning veterans can expect to wait for up to six months just for a primary care visit. And those waiting to receive a disability rating could be left in the lurch for as long as two years.
Despite the VA backlog, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances at having your application processed in a timely fashion. Here’s what you need to know.
How to Prepare a Veterans Claim
- The key to getting a Veterans disability claim processed in a timely fashion is preparation. Take the time to gather together all medical evidence at your disposal, including any records from your visits to physicians’ offices and any records from hospital stays. If you think it might be important, it probably will be. Get organized early, and then stay that way.
- Make sure to assemble any documents related to dependents, since the benefits sought will apply to their needs as well. These documents might include birth certificates for children or marriage certificates if you have a spouse.
- The third step in preparing a veteran disability case is perhaps the most important. Veterans need a physician’s report to help establish the fact that the health condition developed while they were in the military, and that it was related to military service. This will help the VA to establish the type and severity of the veteran’s disability, and will assist them in applying the VA rating criteria to your particular case.
Hopefully the next step will be to receive VA compensation and view the VA Disability Benefits Rates. However, even with thoughtful preparation, some people fall through the cracks or have their application for benefits denied. If this happens to you, your next step is to contact a lawyer. Disability lawyers are familiar with the VA system and can be an important ally as you navigate the process.
Most importantly, if you find yourself in the VA’s backlog or if your application gets denied, know that you’re not alone. What was once swept under the rug is becoming a consequential campaign issue, with relief not far off. As of September 2015, the VA backlog had shrunk from 608,000 to around 82,000 — a turnaround that has almost certainly resulted from additional public attention being paid to this issue.
Adrienne Erin is a writer who has spent the last 3 years covering health and the healthcare industry. Her interest in the veteran disability system grew when her brother-in-law began pursuing his disability rating and hitting hurdles along the way. You can read more of her work on her blog, Miss Rx.
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