By Brett Buchanan
Help appears to be finally on the horizon for those waiting for a final decision on their Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims.
In a seemingly rare bi-partisan effort, Congress passed and the president signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, created to reduce wait times for veterans appealing their denied claims for VA disability benefits.
More than 400,000 former GIs now wait an average of five years for a final decision on their disability claims, but lawmakers say they want to reduce that to a more manageable 12 months. A veteran seeking disability benefits must prove his or her disabilities occurred or were made worse while serving. Often, the claims include more than one problem for which the vet is seeking separate decisions.
Enactment of the bill does not mean immediate improvements, however. The VA has indicated it will take the agency at least 18 months to adapt the current system and it’s unlikely those currently in the appeals backlog will benefit by the new process.
Under the legislation, veterans will have one of three paths if they choose to appeal their claims. They can appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals; request that a higher level VA adjudicator review and make a decision on the appeal; or provide new information and appeal to the same VA adjudicator who made the original decisions on the case.
The bill also requires the VA to provide more regular updates about the status of their disability claim.
It will take awhile to see the benefits of this change. In the meantime, if you’re thinking about appealing your VA disability claim because it was denied, or because you expected a higher rating, check out the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeals Service. We may be able to help you receive the benefits you were promised when you first put on your battle dress.