If you turn on the TV, read a newspaper, and especially scroll through your Facebook Timeline, you know that there is a VA backlog. We know it is an issue, and that it is going to be an issue for a while, but why is the VA taking so long?
The good news is that the VA, and the government as a whole, acknowledges that there is a problem. The VA is taking it seriously enough to address the backlog in the media, and via their website and social media accounts. While there is a lot of information out there already about what’s going on, most of it is opinion. We want to give our Veterans a little insight to what to expect with such a large backlog.
First of all, the VA states it hasn’t always been this bad. That is a very true statement. As a law firm that has handled VA claims since 2008, we have seen this get progressively worse over the years. Sure, claims have never been processed overnight, but what used to take 7-9 months now takes more than 18 months to process. The media and the VA state the number one reason for this time shift is the number of claims being processed. This is an accurate statement, but it is not the only reason. Other things occurred over the past few years that contributed to the backlog. For one, the Nehmer laws contributed to the backlog in recent years. Without getting into the convoluted facts about the Nehmer case, it dealt with claims pertaining to Agent Orange exposure. A lot of cases that were once denied had to be reevaluated, and this took a lot of time.
The VA states that all of these new claims that are being filed by younger Veterans have more issues than in the past. According to the Associated Press, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.
Another factor that contributes to the backlog is the fact that the VA is not paperless. For instance, at our firm, once we receive anything about your claim, it is scanned into a computer system, and any of the employees who work on VA claims can access your file. Within moments we can look at your claim file, we can see you most recent decisions, and even all of your medical evidence. This is organized into neat categories, and makes our process smooth. On the other hand, the VA is not paperless. They have physical files still. This is something that the VA is working on changing, but it will not happen overnight.
Any realtor will tell you it’s all about “Location, location, location.” (Or possibly now it’s more about finance.) Regardless, your location is still a major factor in the length of your claim. The following story is completely true. While writing this blog I received a call from a Veteran who lives in Maine. If you are like me, you forget that Maine is a state from time to time as it is pretty quiet for the most part. The Veteran assured me that it was indeed a real location, and that he received his initial decision, as well as a decision from an appeal within a year. I responded by asking him if he was sure, and he responded, “yes.” I then asked a follow up question: “Are you positive?” Once again he responded by saying “yes.” I was a little stunned by this timeline. An initial decision and a decision from an appeal within a year? I spoke to our VA Manager Rhonda, and she stated that Maine is indeed a state, and that they are very quick. So, I had no choice but to conclude that the Maine Regional Office works harder than all of the others in the US. Rhonda responded to this statement by scolding me. She informed me that Maine has a lot fewer Veterans than North Carolina and West Virginia, and most other states. When hearing this news I thought of writing a blog informing all of the Veterans to move to Maine. Surely this would speed up their cases. I was once again wrong. Rhonda told me that moving slows down claims too. All of the aforementioned paper files from above have to be transferred from one office to the other. That is not as simple as shipping your file via UPS.
Another issue we see that will hold up a VA Claim is double dipping. Another way to put it is submitting the same piece of evidence multiple times. For instance instead of submitting multiple statements about an issue, submit one well thought out statement. Only submit multiple statements if you have had a substantial change. Also, submitting medical records multiple times can have the same affect. When you have representation like Jan Dils Attorneys at Law, they take care of submitting evidence for you.
While we have had some fun above, there is no question that this is a major issue for any Veteran. The backlog will likely be around for a while. Though we can’t speed up your case, there is still a lot we can do for your claim. Give us a call today for a free phone consultation, or ask to be contacted here.