Those who watch the show regularly know we’ve been keeping a close eye on the crushing backlog of veterans’ disability claims, causing turmoil in the lives of hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families. Today, there was an important announcement on the ongoing controversy.
Veterans waiting more than a year for a decision on their disability claims are moving to the front of the line, under a new program announced Friday.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is responding to criticism about the soaring number of claims that have been pending for longer than 125 days. The VA said that of the nearly 900,000 claims pending in the system, some 250,000 are from veterans who have been waiting at least a year for a decision.
Veterans receive disability compensation for injuries and illness incurred or aggravated during their active military service. The amount of the compensation is based on a rating assigned by the VA.
“Too many veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a press release. “That is why we are implementing an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog in 2015. This initiative is the right thing to do now for veterans who have waited the longest.”
The use of provisional decisions appears to be the key part the policy shift. If the information in the existing file is complete, veterans are set to receive immediate compensation. If a claim is denied based on incomplete information, veterans have a year to submit additional details, and can be compensated retroactively.
The announcement has been met with cautious optimism, but will be closely monitored to see if the new policy is implemented effectively.