Loading...
You are here:  Home  >  Veterans Disability  >  Current Article

VA disability benefits – What is a Fully Developed Claim?

By   /   8 Comments

va-disability-benefits2The Fully Developed Claim process is intended to be a fast track way to get VA disability benefits processed. From 2008-2012, the VA experienced a 50% increase in the number of claims submitted, and those incoming claims were more complex – containing 19% more medical conditions. The Fully Developed Claim (FDC) was first tested as a pilot program, to address the increasing delays in processing claims.

What is a Fully Developed Claim

As the VA works to reduce the backlog of claims, the FDC emerged as a way to get claims that are in solid order pushed through the system faster. The FDC concept refers to the fact that VA disability benefits claims are considered “fully developed” when the veteran has no more evidence to submit and the only assistance required from the VA is to secure federal records and order any medical examinations.

The applicant submits an official FDC claim form, and submits all available supporting evidence, like private treatment records and notice of Federal treatment records, to the VA at the time they first file a formal claim; the veterans also certify they have no more evidence to submit.

The VA states that it has provided priority channels for processing claims submitted in accordance with the FDC procedures. According to the VA, “The Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Program is the fastest way of getting your compensation or pension claim processed. Participation in the FDC Program allows for faster claims processing while preserving great quality of service and your right to appeal a decision.”

Fast-track procedure

Using the FDC procedures can cut down on the claim processing time for an initial claim by more than half. In an August 2012 press release, the VA stated, “Currently, FDC claims take an average of 110 days to decide compared to 254 days through the traditional claims method.”

There are a couple of ways that the FDC process cuts down on processing time:

  • First, the veteran files an intention to use the FDC system, which sets the effective date of the claim
  • The VA tells the veteran precisely what information and evidence is needed to process the claim. Once the vet gathers and submits all of the documentation, the VA begins to process the claim. This can eliminate delays of the back and forth of waiting for further instructions and more evidence. It lets you know up front the documents you need. Veterans and their representatives do much of the development that typically takes the VA up to half a year to gather.
  • The up front submission of evidence allows the VA to start processing the claim immediately, without holding it for mandatory wait periods.
  • Most Veteran’s Service Organizations have representatives who can help develop a FDC claim for free, although applicants can also seek legal advice.
  • If for some reason your claim does not meet the FDC criteria, your claim will be converted to standard processing.

After the veteran submits the claim, the VA will gather all federal records identified, such as VA Medical Center records and the documents from the Social Security Administration. The VA will also send the applicant for a VA medical examination, if needed.

How does FDC compare to a regular claim submission

The main difference is that with a standard application, the VA is the one who tracks down most of your documentation and evidence. With the FDC, the veteran gathers as much documents as possible up front.

The VA website describes the standard claim process this way:

  • The VA is responsible for getting relevant records from any federal agency that you identify and authorize;
  • The VA will make every reasonable effort to obtain relevant records not held by a federal agency that you identify and authorize.

These may include:

  • privately held evidence and information you tell them about (such as records from a private doctor or hospital) and/or
  • records from state or local governments or current or former employers.

The VA estimates that it takes an average of 175 days to gather evidence for a standard VA disability benefits claim.

In contrast, the FDC form outlines the evidence that you need to submit. Usually, this is private treatment records. The veteran also notifies the VA precisely where other federal records exists, such as those with VA Medical Centers or the Social Security Administration. Depending on the type of military service, you may need to also assist in locating your service records.

What are the pros and cons of using the FC process?

The main advantage of the FDC system is a speedy resolution. Data shows the FDC process can cut the time to a decision by half – which on average, means a decision coming in less than four months, instead of the standard eight-month time.

Some of the pilot programs were showing 90-day decision windows, outside of any delays caused by waiting for more records outside the VA’s control. The pilot program in Chicago showed great results. Chicago reported that, “By 2010, 25 percent of FDC claims were rated in 69 days, and half were decided in 115 days. These are good results.”

VA regional officers say the FDC involves veterans more in the process, and gives them more control over their claim. Using the FDC process is not intended to affect the quality of care or level of benefits received. It is simply a method to speed up claim review.

Early evidence suggests use of a FDC may also reduce the appeals rate. The FDC also provides an option to request a reconsideration after a decision, and a chance to submit more evidence before needing to go to the appeal stage.

There don’t appear to be active negatives reported. If anything bumps you out of the FDC process, your claim may just be put back in the standard processing pool. This could happen if, for example, your claim ends up requiring the VA’s assistance for more than just ordering federal records or medical exams; or if it’s determined more documents are needed. You can also drop out of the FDC process at any time and have your claim move through the standard processing procedures.

The Fully Developed Claim process currently applies only to the initial application for VA disability benefits, or secondary and increased disability service connection claims. The VA is testing an expedited appeals process.

    Print       Email

8 Comments

  1. DJF says:

    This process doesn’t really appear to work. My brother, a VietNam vet, submitted an FDC claim, assisted by his county veterans’ office, in July 2013. All the medical records are VA, as well. Six months later, all he’s received are the standard form letters telling him they’re sorry for the delay. He has leukemia from exposure to Agent Orange. I think his claim was registered as received, and it’s “in the system.” I’m betting no actual person has reviewed the documentation for this claim.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Delia,

      The VA claim backlog is long and, with few exceptions, claims have to be taken in order. President Obama has given an order that claims of vets who have a terminal illness or are homeless can be expedited. If your brother’s condition is terminal, submit a letter from his physician as proof of his condition and you might move his claim get ahead of the others.

      Sincerely,

      Jim Brown
      VA Comment Moderator
      3.

  2. mary salerno says:

    my husband has had a fully developed claim in now for 6 months, and we have not heard anything and his was for lung cancer. I know that there is a back log, but when vets have serious illnesses, they should come first. the last thing on a persons mind when someone is on there death bed is to ask there doctor for a letter! we have sent in letters, forms, over a month ago and they still say that they have not receive them, and they were faxed and uploaded on ebenefits web site. Then they ask you to fill out employer forms when it is right in his file that he has been on ssd since 1999, but we still had to send forms, then they add a year more on the time before they have to decide the claim. The last claim took 7 years to decide. I AM SURE MY HUSBAND WILL BE GONE BEFORE THIS CLAIM IS DECIDED! Thank you for your time.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Mary,

      Is your husband applying for VA compensation or VA pension? Are you claiming the lung cancer is service connected? Has the physician said that there is a connection between service and the condition? Is your husband receiving any disability benefits for this condition yet? What proof has been provided so far? I can give you more information when you answer this.

      Sincerely,

      James Mitchell Brown
      Attorney at Law

  3. Eric Litchfield says:

    I am curious of the delay in my FDC because I was told it was the fastest way to get your claim process it appears the VA system is yet still broken even though more money has been given to it to process claims parently we need more employees at VA to help with this system. I am curious of what the real advantage of an FDCs other than a propaganda type statement that says they’ll get it done faster but actually it you may actually die before you get your benefits. Maybe using the right vs or getting congrats man involved may help not sure.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Eric,

      Your question does not provide enough information. I don’t know what this means. Is FDC Federal District Court or the Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims? If the latter and you are there, did you appeal with attorney to preserve past-due benefits. If you do have an attorney, your attorney would be in best position to answer this question.

      Sincerely,

      James Mitchell Brown
      Attorney at Law

  4. RW Dimmett says:

    I ended my military
    career in 97 after 15 years of service due to injuries I sustained on active duty! I was initially rated by the VA at 10% and it took 8 years to be fully compensated at 100% IU P&T. Chronic fatigue, memory problem and depression were denied in my 1999 rating and I never appealed it because the VA said that these conditions were due to PTSD! A sleep study found that I have large amounts of alpha intrusions during Stage 2&3 when it is usually not seen! My question is, can I file a FDC for Gulf War Syndrome, especially now that medical studies coloberate our symptoms? BTW, I was one of the first 300 with an unexplained illness returning from the gulf and participated in the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program by the DOD in 1996 and I’m still waiting for my results!
    RW
    USMC-1981-1988
    US Army-1988-1997
    Combat Vet

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear RW,

      I say give it a try. Probably difficult to prove, but you have nothing to lose.

      Sincerely,
      James Mitchell Brown
      Attorney at Law
      226-621-2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>