Terrible April Fools Joke or Reality?
On April 1, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) issued a news release claiming a 44% reduction in the backlog of cases at their peak in March, 2013, while at the same time improving the accuracy of the decisions. This sounds good, but keep in mind that VA defines the backlog as cases that have been pending more than 125 days.
This is a start if these numbers are in fact accurate. However, many veterans have been waiting a long time for their claims. If the claim is denied at the Regional Office, the wait for an appeal to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA) is just as long or longer.
In 2012, an inspection by the VA Office of Inspector General found that the Winston Salem office employees had stacked an estimated 37,000 claims folders on top of file cabinets because they ran out of storage space. This inspection came after countless complaints about the long wait times for processing claims. (click Here for the story).
Apparently, one way some VA employees decided to handle the backlog was to destroy medical records in claims files. (click here for the story). This type of action only degrades the VA claims process.
The VA has two types of claim processes: a traditional claim where the VA develops the record or a fully-developed claim. This is a step in the right direction. This is not really a new process. Rather than counting on the VA to obtain the medical and military records of a veteran for his or her claim as they are required to do by the Duty to Assist, the preparer of the claim obtains all of the information and submit a full package to the VA for a decision. Will this speed up the process? Maybe. With the backlog of cases, will these fully-developed cases really be reviewed faster than other claims?
One reason claims may take a long time is the difficulty obtaining documents from third-parties such as medical providers. The veteran or the veteran’s representative may have just as many problems obtaining documents from other sources as the VA. The cost then shifts back to the veteran to pay for their records, which some may not have the financial means to do so.