VA Initiative makes some Veterans potentially eligible for up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits under the new law
By Chris Berry
The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that Veterans filing an original Fully Developed Claim (FDC) for service-connected disability compensation could be entitled to up to one-year retroactive disability benefits. Effective from Aug. 6, 2013 to Aug. 5, 2015, the retroactive benefits come as a result of a comprehensive legislative package passed by Congress and signed into law last year by President Obama.
“VA strongly encourages Veterans to work with Veterans Service Organizations to file Fully Developed Claims and participate in this initiative, since it means more money in eligible Veterans’ pockets simply by providing VA the information it needs up front,” Allison A. Hickey said, Under Secretary for Benefits. “At the same time, it helps reduce the inventory of pending claims by speeding the process.”
Typically, the fastest way for Veterans to receive a decision on their claims is to file an FDC.An FDC requires Veterans to include all supporting evidence when they submit their claims. Private treatment records are one example of the type of evidence that the VA must legally attempt to collect on the Veteran’s behalf.
Significant time is saved for the VA when Veterans submit this type of evidence with their claims. The VA still makes an effort to gather federal records on behalf of the Veteran, but the inclusion of non-federal records by the Veteran with his or her claim allows the VA to issue a decision more swiftly.
Veterans can file their FDC through the joint, DoD-VA online portal, eBenefits (www.ebenfits.va.gov). Those who cannot file online are encouraged by the VA to work with an accredited Veterans Service Organization (VSO) who is able to file claims digitally on Veterans’ behalf. Only veterans who are submitting their first compensation claim as an FDC are potentially eligible for up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits under the new law.
Production of claim decisions is increased because of FDCS, and as a result, VA’s claims backlog is reduced. VA continues to prioritize specific categories of claims like those of seriously wounded, terminally ill, Medal of Honor recipients, former Prisoners of Way, the homeless and those suffering from major financial depression.
As a result of several efforts like the “Community of Practice”, VA backlog – claims pending over 125 days – has been reduced by 17 percent compared to its peak in March 2013.
Veterans can learn more about disability benefits and other VA intiatives on the joint Department of Defense—VA web portal eBenefits at www.ebenefits.va.gov, and the FDC program at www.benefits.va.gov/fdc.
Christopher J. Berry is a Michigan elder law attorney Dedicated to helping seniors, veterans and their families navigate the long-term care maze. To learn more visit http://www.theeldercarefirm.com/ or call 248.481.4000