4-26-2013

VA to Expedite Claims Decisions for Long-Waiting Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced it is implementing an initiative to expedite compensation decisions for veterans whose claims have been unresolved for one year or longer. VA raters will make provisional decisions on the oldest claims in the inventory, which will allow eligible veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits more quickly. Provisional decisions will be based on all evidence provided to date by the veteran or obtained on their behalf by VA.  If a VA medical examination is needed to decide the claim, it will be ordered and expedited. Veterans will be able to submit additional evidence for consideration a full year after the provisional rating, before VA issues a final decision.

“Too many veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “That is why we are implementing an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog by 2015.  This initiative is the right thing to do now for veterans who have waited the longest.”

Issuing provisional decisions not only provides veterans with applicable benefits much more quickly, but also gives them an additional one-year safety net to submit further evidence should it become available. Our door will remain open and if a veteran has additional evidence, their case will be fast tracked,” said Allison Hickey, Undersecretary for Benefits.

Throughout this initiative, VA will continue to prioritize claims for homeless veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and veterans filing Fully Developed Claims (FDC).  Click here for more information about filing Fully Developed Claims.    

Claims for wounded warriors separating from the military for medical reasons will continue to be handled separately and on a priority basis with the Department of Defense (DoD) through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES).  Wounded Warriors separating through IDES currently receive VA compensation benefits in an average of 61 days following their separation from service.

While compensation claims are pending, eligible veterans are able to receive healthcare and other benefits from VA.  Veterans who have served in recent conflicts are eligible for 5 years of free healthcare from VA. Currently, over 55 percent of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are using VA health care, a rate of utilization greater than previous generations of veterans. Veterans can learn more about disability benefits on the joint DoD-VA e-Benefits web portal.