Waiting for Veteran Disability Benefits – How long does it take?
Learn what you can do to get a faster decision on your Veteran Disability Benefits claim, how to avoid delays in getting medical records, and how the Fully Developed Claim program can speed the process.
It has become a well-known fact that the DVA can take a long time to process claims for Veteran Disability Benefits. Nationwide, it took the VA on average more than eight months to process a claim in June, 2012 – this is 50% longer than it took in 2011.
A report from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) found that the average wait time to evaluate a claim was 277 days. The CIR found that vets in New York and North Texas waited the longest, at an average of more than one year.
Increased media and political attention
Increased media and political scrutiny have prompted calls for improvement. Last summer, the VA promised to work on improving its processing; the CIR reports that by Fall 2012, “slow but measurable progress” could be seen in reducing the backlog.
The longest backlogs typically occur in densely populated metropolitan areas like New York, and Oakland, California. The reason given by the VA for delays in processing is that they don’t have enough personnel to handle all of the claims in a timely manner. There has been an increase in the number of claims from Afghanistan and Iraq vets, on top of vets from the Vietnam War who are filing new claims.
Even with modest improvements, chronic delays remain a problem. The DVA’s own Inspector General has found that the agency needs to hire more staff. The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report in November 2012 finding that lengthy delays in processing claims for Veteran Disability Benefits continue.
Gathering medical records can cause delays
Some delays can be caused by problems the DVA has in sharing medical records with the DOD and medical providers. The DVA is also trying to streamline the use of electronic records sharing between the parties involved in establishing a veteran’s claim. In these cases, vets can help obtain any records themselves, or to be sure to start the process right away. It might be faster for you to just obtain certified paper records yourself, if that’s possible for what you need.
What can you do?
While some of the delay problem may be out of your control, you can still do everything you possibly can to speed up the process from your end. When you apply, secure all of the required evidence in the desired format. Check and double-check that any records you request are sent and received where they need to be. Continually follow-up with your doctor’s office and the VA, and your agent, if you have one, to make sure everything is moving along with your application.
The DVA has created a Fully Developed Claim program that can allow you to speed up the time it takes to process your claim for veterans disability benefits. The program helps guide you on how to provide all of the relevant information in precisely the correct form that the DVA needs to process it. You do your part by getting hold of the necessary records yourself and sending them to the VA. This can expedite the evaluation of your claim. If you file a Standard Claim, the VA is responsible for getting relevant documents and this can cause delays.
The VA encourages veterans to take advantage of assistance in filing their claims. See Veterans Disability Benefits-How do I apply? for additional information.
It is very important that you do everything you can to file a complete application. If there is an error or missing information that leads to an initial denial, appeals can take even longer. Some vets who appeal a denied claim can wait three years or more for a resolution.
The best you can do in the face of inevitable delays is to stay on top of your claim at all times, and get qualified assistance.