Kristina Derro, Esq.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’s (VA) “appeals resolution time” shot up to 923 days in fiscal year 2013 – that’s up 37% from 675 in the previous year, according to the department’s annual performance report.
The appeals resolution time is the average time it takes for a denied claim to work through the VA’s appeals process. That means veterans are waiting nearly three years on a decision as to whether they will receive crucial disability benefits.
Disability benefits are awarded to veterans who suffer physical or mental injuries during their military service, ranging from $131 a month to $2,858 a month for a single veteran.
The 923 day tally for 2013 is over half of the Department’s long-term goal of 400 days, and still well over its short-term goal of 650 days. One likely culprit for this troubling trend is the VA’s overall backlog of claims awaiting an initial decision.
The VA has been engaged in a very public battle to reduce its overall backlog. By 2015, the department wants to get the backlog to zero. That would ensure that no claim is pending for more than 125 days. This goal has received the most attention from Congress, the administration, and veterans groups, which has apparently left the appeals resolution time issue to take a backseat.
“As the VA has pushed to end the backlog, there’s been a diversion of resources from the appeals system to tackling the backlog,” said Jacqueline Maffucci, research director for the advocacy group Iraqand Afghanistan Veterans of America, in a recent Stars & Stripes report.
Laura Eskenazi, the official who oversees the Department’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals, cautioned that the long processing time “is not at all indicative of inactivity.”
Veterans who appeal their initial decision, either in part or in full, are slotted into a separate system, which extends their wait-time on a final decision even longer. That appeals process has evolved into a multi-layer system since its inception in World War I. Veterans, survivors, or their representatives may prompt a new review of the entire appeal at any time by submitting new evidence. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals then grants, denies, or, most commonly, remands the case to a VA regional office for additional review.
Few attorneys are experienced in the difficult prosecution of VA claims. Our legal staff at Legal Help For Veterans has over a decade of experience in dealing with VA disability appeals and employs a network of medical specialists, many former military physicians, who can ensure your claim has the best likelihood for success. Our staff includes former officers and enlisted personnel; we are veterans helping veterans and have experience in these very issues.
For more information, visit our website at www.legalhelpforveterans.com.
To read more on the appeals resolution time, see the Stars & Stripes Report here: http://www.stripes.com/news/us/va-s-time-to-resolve-disability-appeals-shoots-up-1.270408#.UxEGcZJ5ds8.email