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Disabled veterans and the claims logjam: an update

One of the threads we've been following across time in this blog is the challenge faced by many veterans in accessing their federal benefits.

In our most recent look at this issue, in our December 23 post last year, we noted that despite a much-touted "surge" over the summer, the immense logjam of claims to be processed at the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) has by no means been cleared. This logjam affects disabled veterans in Michigan and across the nation.

In today's post, we will discuss the call by a key veterans' group for the federal government to finally cut through the bureaucratic inertia so that vets can get their applications for benefits processed within a reasonable time.

Last year started on a promising note. As we discussed in our December 26 post in 2012, the Social Security Administration and the VA worked together on an expedited process to facilitate expedited applications for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits.

At the VA itself, however, the backlog of pending claims still lingers, more than a year later. It is now about 400,000 cases.

This week a national veterans group, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), called for the VA to speed up the processing of veterans' claims for compensation for service-related health problems. By the VA's own criteria, a claim is deemed to be "backlogged" if it has been pending for longer than 125 days.

The IAVA did not merely complain. It also outlined several proposed steps to cut through the disability claim backlog by next year.

The recommendations included:
• Greater use of computerized forms, which could require rule changes
• Congressional action to require federal agencies to provide quicker access to health records for veterans
• More transparency on backlog-reduction efforts
• Better training for claim processors

In short, the system for resolving disability claims by veterans remains in need of substantial improvements. To paraphrase the oft-quoted line of baseball's Yogi Berra, when it comes to clearing a logjam, "it ain't over til it's over."

Source: USA Today, "Veterans group seeks acdtion to cut backlog of claims," Gregg Zoroya, Feb. 3, 2014

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