The Veterans Blog was created by the disability law firm of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. It is intended to serve as a valuable resource on issues important to veterans and their families. Veterans, their loved ones, the media and the general public are encouraged to visit the blog daily for updates. Comments are also welcome and can be posted in response to blogs.
Although numerous issues have been raised concerning the significant backlog of veterans disability claims, one of the potential causes could be the mishandling of paperwork – losing documents is one of the most common complaints.
Unfortunately, this isn’t something new. It’s been a problem for the past several years, causing many claimants to be wrongly denied benefits or decisions to be unnecessarily delayed. A report last year from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered that it can take months to gather all of the documentation necessary to prove eligibility for disability benefits, as noted in a recent news report from the McClatchy Washington Bureau.
It’s hard to understand how paperwork could get lost, but it’s apparently a big problem since the Office of the Inspector General at the VA found that out of 16 VA regional offices, 10 of them had issues with mishandling mail, the story notes.
Another potential issue for wrong denial of claims are when the VA is required to search for records. They have a duty to assist vets with the assembling of paperwork, but those attempts might go only so far, resulting in a hasty (and wrong) decision to deny a claim.
While these may not be the only problems contributing to the backlog of claims, they certainly raise concerns – especially since the VA has made its goal to eliminate the backlog by 2015.
Although not much can be done to prevent the loss of paperwork once it reaches the VA, there are steps that can be taken to at least reduce the chance of delays or denials. Making sure all of the proper documentation is assembled when the claim is initially filed can make a significant difference. For help, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. at 888-234-5758.
There is a lot of contention surrounding reasons for the substantial backlog of veteran’s disability claims that has been plaguing veterans filing for benefits. Promises have been made to improve the process, and one solution being utilizes is the installation of electronic record systems. With a goal to eliminate all outstanding claims by 2015, there is a lot of work ahead.
Yet one of the overlooked issues surrounding the backlog of claims are those that haven’t been filled out completely or correctly. So a new program has been launched to address this problem. It’s a six-page form which allows quicker claims processing.
Called the “Fully Developed Claim,” applicants submit all necessary documentation and records at the same time as completing the form. The veteran must then certify that no further evidence is available.
This could reduce system clogs related to incomplete or inaccurate paperwork. It would also prevent unnecessary delays, oftentimes caused by confusion over how to fill out the paperwork and the types of documentation that should be submitted.
Although veterans can certainly fill out an application on their own, having an advocate can improve the chances of everything being done the right way. This could eliminate or reduce unwarranted denials and lengthy delays.
All it takes is one small mistake on an application and it can put the claim in limbo for several months or longer. So the hope is that this Fully Developed Claims program will prevent this, especially since the average time it takes to process a claim in the St. Petersburg VA regional office is 335 days.
An attorney from the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can assist with the initial filing of a veteran’s disability claim, or if the veteran needs to appeal a decision. We know the claims process and what it takes to make sure it’s done correctly the first time.
Along with suffering from disabling physical medical conditions, vets can also find themselves struggling with mental health problems. One of the more common is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But now a new bill that has passed the House could allow vets to obtain disability benefits stemming from a sexual assault that occurred while serving in the military.
Named for a Navy vet who was raped twice in 1987 by her supervisor, the Ruth Moore Act of 2013 would not only make it easier to obtain disability benefits for the psychological effects of a sexual assault, it’s hoped that standards will change regarding how these cases are handled. One of which is that official records won’t be required in order to show proof of an assault. In other words, testimony from the victim would be enough.
The bill also strives to ensure proper medical care and treatment will be given to survivors of sexual assault. Too often mental health conditions are not adequately addressed among veterans. This is becoming a serious issue in not only stopping assaults, but also dealing with the aftereffects.
The VA plans to implement similar procedures for those who have experienced sexual trauma as they do in processing disability claims for conditions such as PTSD. This includes taking into account evidence that isn’t as intrusive.
Sexual assault can lead to a variety of long-term mental health problems, including PTSD, anxiety and depression. Contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. to discuss the possibility of filing a claim for disability benefits if you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault or suffers from any other type of debilitating psychological condition stemming from military service.
The U.S. House has voted 421 to 4 to give the Veterans Affairs Department additional funds in an effort to reduce the backlog of disability claims. This would result in the hiring of additional staff to address the claims backlog for fiscal year 2014.
The hope is that by hiring an additional 94 workers, it will allow the VA to reach its goal of eliminating the claims backlog by 2015. Claims that are older than 125 days are considered to be a part of the backlog. It’s estimated that there are more than 500,000 claims currently in backlog. Average wait times have been cited as being between 316 and 327 days.
The disability process requires an applicant to first file VA Form 21-526 (Veteran’s Application of Compensation and/or Pension). This can be submitted online or in person at a local VA office.
Additional paperwork generally includes proof of the vet’s periods of service and evidence of disability being claimed. It must also be shown that it was the result of active duty service. Medical records can help substantiate claims of disability. Marriage certificates/divorce records, birth certificates/adoption records may also be necessary.
By collecting the required paperwork and submitting it on time, this could help in preventing delays with the claim. When documentation is missing or incomplete, it can disrupt the process. It can help to work with an attorney who can ensure all necessary information is provided when filing the initial application. This could also avoid the potential for a claim to be unnecessarily denied.
Help from LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A.
LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. understands the frustrations that can be experienced when submitting a disability claim. We are here to help disabled veterans navigate the system and better understand their rights. Don’t delay seeking legal help, whether it’s your first time filing a claim or appealing one that has been denied.
As noted in a recent Stars and Stripes report, there has been a recent surge in veterans’ disability claims for sleep apnea. Since 2009 they have nearly doubled, increasing to 114,103 veterans or retirees drawing payments for the condition in 2012. The number of veterans who began drawing payments for sleep apnea was 24,791 compared to 983 in 2001.
Although some may have concerns regarding the legitimacy of some of the claims filed for sleep apnea related to military service, it can be a chronic condition that not only disrupts one’s sleep, but causes fatigue throughout the day. Those who legitimately developed this or other chronic conditions due to military service may pursue a VA disability claim.
Overview of Sleep Apnea
There are two forms of sleep apnea. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea, where the airway is blocked or collapses. This results in pauses in between breathing or breathing that is shallow. The other kind is central sleep apnea, where for momentary periods of time there is no breathing.
If this condition isn’t treated, it can lead to other health problems such as heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, diabetes and high blood pressure. It may also increase the risk of heart failure or worsen the condition for those who already have it.
Because it can interfere with one’s ability to function during the day, there is also an increased risk of having an accident at home, work or while driving. Proper treatment is critical.
The following are some of the signs of sleep apnea:
- loud snoring;
- lack of energy/sleepiness during day;
- difficulty sleeping;
- sporadically waking up gasping or choking;
- headaches (in morning); and
- sore throat/dry mouth (in morning).
Some of the ways sleep apnea can be managed include breathing devices, mouthpieces, surgery and/or making lifestyle changes (such as losing weight).
Filing a Veterans’ Disability Claim
If it’s believed that a chronic condition developed as a result of exposures during military service, disability benefits may be available. For help filing a claim or appealing a denied application, contact The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A.
A bipartisan group of more than 160 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the President recently urging his direct involvement in resolving the VA claims backlog. A bipartisan group of 67 senators had previously sent a similar letter.
Despite the agency’s budget increasing 40 percent, the number of backlogged claims has risen by 2,000 percent over the last four years, notes Congressman Patrick Murphy of Florida, one of the letter’s authors. The average wait time for those filing their first claim is between 316 and 327 days. However, many vets have waited as long as 800 days and some even beyond 1,000. Veteran’s Administration’s goal is to work through the backlog and by the end of 2015.
Meanwhile, an interactive map created by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows the number of claims backlogged in each VA claims office. As of May 28, 2013, there are 49,710 vets waiting a decision from the St. Petersburg, FL office. The number who have been waiting more than 125 days is at 34,408 and there are 11,091 who have been waiting for more than a year. The average wait time for first time filers is 433 days.
At The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A., our dedicated attorneys can assist with the initial filing of a claim or filing an appeal for a denied claim. Although it can be a stressful process, we are here to help walk disabled vets through it. Call 888-234-5758 to speak with a claims specialist at our office.
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) are the latest asset to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as it continues to focus on elimination of the veterans’ disability claim backlog. The VA recently announced that it has developed a partnership with the Disabled American Veterans and The American Legion – two prominent national VSOs that have been providing services to disabled veterans for many years.
The main focus of this partnership is to promote the submission of Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) when disabled veterans apply for veterans disability benefits. A FDC is a claim that:
- is submitted with all available supporting evidence;
- includes any private medical records;
- has notice of federal treatment records; and
- is certified that there is no further evidence to submit.
Claims identified as “fully developed” are not added to the regular queue for processing; they are expedited for a quicker decision. The more FDCs that are submitted, the fewer veterans’ disability claims there will be added to the already backlogged queue of cases awaiting decisions.
Veterans Service Organizations often have local representatives helping veterans in the community determine if they are eligible to file a claim for disability benefits. By working closely with these organizations and improving the pre-development of new disability claims, the VA hopes that more fully developed claims will be submitted and it will be able to further decrease the backlog.
VSOs may provide assistance to veterans filing first-time claims for disability benefits, but their claims representatives often do not have the resources necessary to appeal a denied claim or unfavorable disability rating. A veterans disability attorney is the legal advocate for disabled veterans facing these situations.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. has a dedicated team of veterans’ disability attorneys to help develop and support your claim through the initial application all the way to appeals. Contact us today – 1-888-234-5758.
With a veterans’ disability claim backlog in the 800,000s, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been searching for more ways to expedite the processing of these claims. Recently, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced that mandatory overtime will be implemented at the 56 regional claims offices across the nation.
The additional hours worked in the mandatory overtime period will be dedicated to continuing the emphasis placed on high-priority claims. These are claims made by:
- homeless veterans;
- veterans with financial hardships;
- former Prisoners of War;
- veterans suffering from terminal illnesses; and
- Medal of Honor recipients.
Veterans who file fully developed claims will also be prioritized, as decisions on their disability claims can usually be reached much faster than those that require additional evidence and documentation.
The additional hours made available to work on claims thanks to the mandatory overtime joins with several recent efforts to further decrease the veterans’ disability claims backlog. Last month, the implementation of provisional decisions began to allow eligible veterans to collect compensation benefits before their claim has an official decision. This process was implemented to help those who have been waiting for more than one year for a decision on their disability benefits claim.
Veterans who file a complete disability claim may be able to take advantage of the expedited decision process under the Fully Developed Claims designation. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. have a dedicated team of veterans’ disability professionals to help develop and support your claim through the initial application all the way to appeals. Contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today – 1-888-234-5758.
With an aging population of disabled veterans and many younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with service-connected ailments, the number of disability claims continues to grow almost as fast as they can be processed. Currently, the veterans’ claim backlog is approximately 850,000.
A new issue has been arising in the fight against the increasing disability claim backlog – some disabled veterans pass away before their disability benefits claims are resolved. Some veterans wait years for a decision on their claim, and sometimes they succumb to their disabling conditions or age before they are able to see a single cent of their benefits.
Vietnam veterans are currently the largest demographic of disabled veterans awaiting decisions on their benefit applications. About 38 percent of those stuck in the queue served in Vietnam, while the next largest group which makes up about 22 percent is of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans.
As new filings for disability benefits continue to pile up, there are thousands of veterans awaiting decisions on appeals. Veterans who file an appeal must do so at the first level of arbitration with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Waiting times at this level average 1,040 days – just under 3 years – before a decision on the appeal is rendered.
Many veterans who must undergo the appeals process for their veterans’ disability benefits had already waited through the initial review process, and are now faced with several more months of waiting for a decision on their appeal. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review investigated 160,000 appeals from 2009 to early 2013, finding that during that time nearly 3,000 veterans died before a decision was rendered on their appeal case.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help disabled veterans with first-time filings for disability benefits, as well as veterans appealing a disability rating or benefit decision. Handling the appeals process is not something disabled veterans or their families have to go through alone: contact us today – 1-888-234-5758.
Veterans can enjoy many health care benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to the VA, about 40 percent of the more than 22 million veterans are receiving health care from the Veterans Health Administration, and there are still more options available.
Veterans who were honorably discharged after at least two years of military service may qualify for VA health care. Disabled veterans are given priority for services through VA hospitals and medical centers. There aren’t any premiums, but a co-pay may be required and services may be limited in rural areas.
Disabled veterans may also qualify for other government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid benefits depending on their age, income, and the nature of their disability. Tricare is another option for military veterans and their immediate family members, with several plans and options for health care coverage.
Health Care for Disabled Veterans
When veterans apply for and are approved for veterans disability benefits they obtain proof that they have a service-connected disability. This can often help qualify them for expedited medical care and evaluations in the VA health system.
Disabled veterans currently enrolled in the VA health care system will qualify as having health care coverage in regards to the upcoming requirements of the Affordable Care Act that require everybody obtain health insurance. However, military spouses not covered under VA health care will still have to comply with the new laws, so programs such as Tricare may be important resources to look into in the coming months.
If you are a veteran seeking benefits for a disabling condition you believe was acquired due to or during your military service you have the right to file a claim for veterans’ disability benefits. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is here to help, so contact us today – 1-888-234-5758.