Showing posts with label claim backlog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label claim backlog. Show all posts

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Veterans Crisis Proves the Devil is in the Details

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 12, 2015

As bad as some folks think things are for veterans right now, it is worse when you know the details.
The idiom "the devil is in the detail" refers to a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details, and derives from the earlier phrase "God is in the detail" expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important.
After Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed the Angels played a dirty trick of leaving out the rest of the news Lot and his daughters needed to know. They thought the rest of the people on earth were also obliterated. Had they known that everyone else was ok, it is really doubtful they would have gotten their elderly father drunk so they could get pregnant by him.
(If anyone leaves out the fact this part of the Bible was about rape instead of consenting gay adults and incest, stop listening.)

Yep, not a great outcome considering the Angels could have filled them in on the rest of the news.

Sometimes folks just can't believe what they hear.

Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier refused to believe the World War II was over.
While most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered in the face of oncoming American forces, Onoda and a few fellow holdouts hid in the jungles, dismissing messages saying the war was over.

For 29 years, he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers.

After losing his comrades to various circumstances, Onoda was eventually persuaded to come out of hiding in 1974. His former commanding officer traveled to Lubang to see him and tell him he was released from his military duties.

There is always something more to the story and if folks are not made aware of what is real instead of what is imagined, suffering always follows.

When the subject is veterans, it isn't always what you're told that you have to worry about. It is what they don't tell you along with the reason behind the lack of information being shared.
A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.
Winston Churchill
Everyone is up in arms over the number of claims in the VA belonging to dead veterans. Reporters really pushed that piece of news. Then a veteran decided to buy some billboards declaring the VA is Lying and Veterans Are Dying but it seems that he was never told none of it was new.

What reporters left out is the simple fact that claims do not have to end with the death of a veteran.  Families can in fact keep the claims process going.
Dependents Indemnity Compensation Benefits Dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) benefits are for survivors of service members who were killed on active duty and for survivors of veterans who died from service-connected disabilities or had a 100% disability rating for a period of time before death. If your veteran spouse passed away while his or her claim for disability compensation benefits was pending, and the claim is approved, you may be entitled to the accrued disability benefits (back payments) that are due to your deceased veteran (more on this below). But you won’t receive ongoing disability compensation payments; instead you may be eligible for dependents indemnity compensation (DIC) benefits.

While it would have made things easier for veterans to know the rest of the story, no one told them. 

Just like no one told them that claims don't stop unless the veteran gives up on filing appeals.

A WWII veteran finally had his claim approved after 60 years! The New York Times reported on a story back in 2012 that shows exactly how long this process can take along with showing that nothing happening on the VA story is new.
"In a case as much about government bungling as one man’s perseverance, the Department of Veterans Affairs said last week that it would end years of litigation and repay Mr. MacKlem, 88, for six decades’ worth of disputed disability compensation, about $400,000."

The other piece of news in this article shows what the claims backlog was like for far too long.
"Of the 850,000 disability claims currently pending before the department, more than 35,000, or 4 percent, are from World War II veterans."

If you are reading a news report being passed off as any kind of breaking news and they don't mention something like this, stop listening and go out to discover the truth about what they are not telling you.

But another story out of the Chicago Times in 2005 showed another case of a veteran waiting for his claim to be approved.
Joseph "Bernie" Daugherty suffered burns across his body, two broken arms and a broken jaw. Daugherty, who served in the Navy from 1959 to 1969, still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 63-year-old Granite City, Ill., man has received some compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs--as little as 10 percent for diminished "work capacity" and 100 percent the last few years. He wants full compensation back to 1969, which could total $500,000 or more, but Daugherty says, "The horrors that I've gone through over the years are unbelievable."

His request for retroactive disability was sent back to the Chicago office in 1998, the first of several times it has been remanded for further review, and he is still waiting for an answer. Remands, as the VA calls them, are claims that have been appealed by veterans and, because of the validity of some portion, require additional evaluation.

The VA's backlog of remands is vast, hobbling an already slow-moving system. A claim can take months or years before it gets remanded, and then those cases sent back to the VA's Chicago regional office sit an average of 20 months.

The Chicago office, which ranked near the bottom of the nation in disability reimbursements, is being investigated by the VA's inspector general's office. The inspector general is expected to issue a report this month explaining why Illinois veterans routinely get less compensation, as reported in the Chicago Sun-Times.

In addition to compensation rates, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recently discussed the remand quagmire with VA Secretary Jim Nicholson. Obama said he expects the inspector general's report will address the issue.

"We have a problem at the front end in which claims aren't processed quickly enough," Obama said. "We have a problem with the results of claims after they're processed. ... And then we have a problem in which the backlog for remands is worse than the national average and an unacceptable number of days."

AMVETS did this press release
VA Claims Backlogs Vary Widely, Depending on Where You Live Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Montgomery, Ala., have some of the longest VA claims backlogs in the country. But Washington, D.C., is the worst, with 6 out of 10 claims taking more than six months to resolve, says
In 2007 when Nicholson appeared before Congress for the final time, this was reported by the Washington Post.
Nicholson, who took office in early 2005, also pointed to persistent problems between the Pentagon and his department in coordinating care for veterans and urged Congress to embrace proposals by a presidential commission to fix gaps.

"They have some very good ideas in there," he said.

Nicholson yesterday expressed sympathy for injured veterans who might have unfairly suffered as a result of unnecessary red tape. "We have learned that, in many instances, we were not as sensitive to those needs as we could have been -- and we have tried to adjust, while at the same time caring for veterans of different wars and different eras," he said in prepared remarks. "My heart has gone out to service members or veterans who seem to have slipped through the cracks."

Hmm, so as you can see clearly now, it isn't what they tell you you have to worry about. It is what they don't remind you of that leaves veterans in an endless cycle of suffering after you stop wondering what the rest of the story really is.

If you are upset about how many veterans commit suicide every year and believe the rumor it is 22 a Day, then you are not being told the simple fact that veterans outnumber civilian suicides 2 to 1 as a whole. But even that isn't the worst news. Most of them are over the age of 50, failed by each session of Congress promising to be more "sensitive" and fix what hasn't worked.

Wait because the truth gets worse as you breakdown the demographics more.

Younger veterans commit suicide 3 to 1 compared to their civilian peers.

Yep even worse when they studied female veterans. For them it is 6 to 1 but then when they looked at younger female veterans, it is 12 to 1.

These numbers are not new and remained unchanged after all the news reporters have long since forgotten about telling you the rest of the story you really should have known to avoid the crisis veterans have faced for decades amounting to one of the worst sins of all. We let them suffer and die.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Among Clusta___ of Dead Veterans Claims, Veteran Died in 1993

More than 300,000 dead vets still on VA’s active health care enrollment list
The Washington Times
By Anjali Shastry
September 2, 2015
Veterans Affairs workers appear to have deleted another 10,000 benefit applications without ever processing them, and 13 percent on the rolls have been awaiting a decision for more than five years, the department’s inspector general said.

More than 300,000 dead veterans are still listed in VA computers as actively trying to sign up for health care — part of a massive 860,000-claim backlog that hasn’t been cleared up, according to an audit Wednesday that portrayed a department struggling with the basics of tracking benefits.
The system was set up in 2009 and incorporated all existing records at that time, but workers never checked to make sure those records were still active — putting dead veterans on the rolls. In one case, a veteran who died in 1993 still has a pending claim from that 2009 transition.
read more here

Thursday, January 22, 2015

240,000 Veterans Claims Still Backlogged

Veterans advocates: Stop the VA 'hamster wheel' disability appeals process
Stars and Stripes
By Heath Druzin
Published: January 22, 2015
"Veterans groups and advocates lined up to blast the VA appeals system at Thursday’s hearing in front of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on disability assistance and memorial affairs."
The effort to clear a massive backlog of veteran disability claims is hurting efforts to address a similar backlog in appeals of denied claims, say advocates demanding reforms to an onerous “hampster wheel” system that leaves veterans languishing for years.

A congressional subcommittee hearing Thursday focused on the appeals process, noting that the Department of Veterans Affairs has about 350,000 pending appeals of denied service-connected disability claims.

“I am aware that the [VA] chose to prioritize certain initial claims in recent years, but I must say that when veterans in my district share that they waited six, eight, 10 years to resolve a meritorious appeal of a service-connected disability claim, I just find that alarming and unacceptable,” Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., said.

Veterans wait an average 3½ years to get an initial decision and often years longer for the VA to finalize that decision. There are almost 510,000 original disability claims pending, with more than 240,000 deemed “backlogged” — meaning the veteran has been awaiting a decision for at least 125 days.
read more here

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Robert McDonald VA Secretary in 97-0 Senate Vote

Senate confirms Robert McDonald as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Stars and Stripes
By Travis J. Tritten
Published: July 29, 2014

WASHINGTON – Robert McDonald was unanimously confirmed by the Senate Tuesday as the new Department of Veterans Affairs secretary.

The former Army Ranger and CEO of Procter and Gamble was confirmed in a 97-0 vote by lawmakers who said his boardroom experience could be used to overhaul the nation’s troubled veteran health care system.

His predecessor Gen. Eric Shinseki stepped down in May amid a growing scandal over long patient wait times and manipulation of appointment data by VA staff. Numerous VA inspector general investigations and testimony on Capitol Hill over the past two months have revealed a deeply dysfunctional agency that often ignored or covered up dangerous shortcomings in care.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Tuesday that McDonald headed up one of the country’s leading corporations and has the experience need to deal with a “huge bureaucracy that needs significant improvement in accountability and management.”
read more here

New VA Secretary McDonald faced with firing VA management
Stars and Stripes
By Travis J. Tritten
Published: July 29, 2014

WASHINGTON — Robert McDonald floated through his confirmation as the new Department of Veterans Affairs secretary, but he now faces the hard work of transforming a floundering bureaucracy — and the expectation he will begin by firing managers.

The former Army Ranger and CEO of Procter and Gamble was confirmed Tuesday in a 97-0 vote by lawmakers who believed his boardroom experience could be used to overhaul the nation’s troubled veteran health care system.

Lawmakers, veterans and observers have all said McDonald must begin by holding staff “accountable,” which has become a euphemism for termination.

Numerous VA inspector general investigations and testimony on Capitol Hill over the past two months has revealed a deeply dysfunctional agency that often ignored or covered up dangerous shortcomings in veteran health care. The bureaucracy bedeviled McDonald’s predecessor, former Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, who claimed the problems that led the White House to press for his resignation were systematically hidden from him.
read more here

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Disabled Veteran's claim tied up, VA sues Veteran

VA responds to foreclosure on local veteran's home
My FOX Austin
March 19, 2014

The Veterans Administration Wednesday responded to questions about why the federal agency was foreclosing on a local army veteran's home. The letter arrived about 24 hours after the Natasha Taylor and her children were kicked to the curb.

Natasha Taylor spent Wednesday morning clearing away what's left of her children's Pflugerville dream home.

"I asked my kids when I got back from my last tour, I'm sorry there is nothing to make up for it, what do you all want from mommy and they said a house a trampoline," said Taylor.

Now that dream is gone. Taylor and her 2-year-old daughter are staying with her fiancé. Two other children, teenagers, are staying with a next door neighbor so they can still go to school. That neighbor is also keeping some of Taylor's property in her garage.
read more here
Veteran being sued by VA
Posted: Mar 11, 2014

A veteran and mother of three is being sued by the VA and now her Pflugerville home could be taken away. She says this comes after the VA took more than a year to approve her benefits and never back-paid her.

Natasha Taylor says the VA was asking her to make house payments, all while she wasn't getting the 80-percent benefits she was approved for because of a back-log of paperwork. Now she could be kicked out of her home as early as next week.

Natasha Taylor served more than 8 years in the U.S Army. She says instead of the VA honoring her service, they aren't doing anything at all.

"I did three tours in Iraq, all while I was a single mother. I gave them everything I had and for them to turn around and not help me," Taylor said.

Taylor was discharged from the military in September 2011 after a 15-month deployment because of a serious back injury.

Around three months later, she says the VA told her they were on back order for any disability pay. She contacted Wells Fargo about her mortgage loan through the VA but they said there was nothing they could do to help, so she paid as much as she could out of pocket.

"I was trying to make my payments, I even made partial payments. I still didn't get any help and my partial payments weren't given back to me," Taylor said.

Over the next two years she received two foreclosure notices by the bank for not being able to make payments. She then learned in October of 2013 that the VA was suing her.

It's been a constant struggle for the Army Veteran.
read more here

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Daily Show Jon Stewart credited for clueing in Congress?

Daily Show Jon Stewart credited for clueing in Congress?
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
February 8, 2014

Senator Richard Burr, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee talked about how bad things are for our veterans. What is even more remarkable is that he pointed to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show instead of the work of the Veterans Affairs Committee not staying on top of everything going on so that a comedian wouldn't have to do it.

Stewart has been wonderful reporting on what they have been going thru and you can watch most of the clips on veterans here. The problem is Stewart reports on what his writers know and that, that is a problem. A bigger problem when a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee didn't know more.

Burr weekly GOP address focuses on needs of veterans
News and Observer
Posted by Renee Schoof
February 8, 2014

Sen. Richard Burr delivered the weekly Republican address on Saturday. As the most senior Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the Winston-Salem senator focused on the backlog of disability claims veterans still face.

The audio of the address is available here. The video will be available here and you may download the address here. Excerpts of his address follows:

“Thankfully, over the past five years, Congress has authorized over $600 billion to VA in robust and sustained increases of government funding for veterans’ programs designed to be part of a more responsive federal support for veterans outreach and care.”

“This unprecedented level of support has been especially evident in the area of veterans’ benefits, specifically disability payments. The surge in financial support has not been matched with an equivalent surge in responsiveness from the Veterans’ Administration.”

Burr said that “incremental progress” has been made to reduce a “now infamous” backlog of claims that existed last year. There are nearly 700,000 veterans and their families “waiting for answers,” Burr said. Claims often have errors, and so veterans have to file appeals.

“More than a quarter million appeals are waiting to be resolved and the time it takes VA to act on appeals is worsening,” Burr said. “As the nation’s military stands down from its war footing, veterans should not have to wage another battle here at home, this time against government bureaucracy.”

Burr said that some veterans also have to wait too long for mental health counseling and other health services. The VA is taking steps to improve its staffing and health care delivery, “but more remains to be done.”
read more here
Sounds like a really good speech. It made it seem like all of this is new. The problem is, it is far from new and because the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee along with the House, did not stay on top of any of this. They have been historically ignorant no matter which party was running the show.

In 2008, NPR reported that Fort Drum officials told the VA to stop helping soldiers with claims.
Morning Edition, January 29, 2008 · Army officials in upstate New York instructed representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs not to help disabled soldiers at Fort Drum Army base with their military disability paperwork last year. That paperwork can be crucial because it helps determine whether soldiers will get annual disability payments and health care after they're discharged.

The Army denied the charges so NPR had to back it up with facts. It was true.

One of the spots on the Daily Show pointed to how the DOD and the VA did not work well together however Stewart didn't know this had been going on since 2008 when Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake announced they were going to work together on claims. What followed was a report starting that "VBA's pending compensation and claims backlog stood at 816,211 as of January 2008, up 188,781 since 2004, said Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of the Disabled Veterans of America, during a Wednesday hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense."
"The fiscal 2009 IT budget request for the Veterans Benefits Administration is about 18 percent less than the fiscal 2008 proposal. The overall IT budget for the Veterans Affairs Department, VBA's parent agency, jumped 18 percent in President Bush's latest request."

All this didn't happen overnight. Gregg Carlstrom reported for Federal Times that "Poor planning by agency leaders and underfunding by Congress created these debilitating backlogs that may take years to resolve, according to federal officials, legislators and watchdog groups. At the start of the Bush administration in 2001, VA had more than 400,000 pending claims for disability ratings, which determine a service-disabled veteran’s employability and disability benefits. The department made progress reducing that number: By 2003, the backlog was down to around 250,000."

This was reported the same year.
“Since 2006, the number of claims has grown 15 percent. The amount of time it takes to make decisions on disability claims is two to three year. On an average, it takes four years to get an appeals decision.”

We have claims that have been pending for a decade, two decades and some that date back more than 50 years. We have appeals from World War II,” said David E. Autry, a spokesman for the Disabled American Veterans in Washington D.C., which represents veterans and advocates and helps them obtain their benefits."

Grover Cleveland Chapman, a WWII veteran went to the VA Outpatient Clinic in Greenville after having his claim denied yet again. He took a gun into his hand and shot himself at the age of 89. He had the letter with him when he shot himself, Harriett Chapman said.

That was also during the time when VA Doctor Ira Katz was being defended after withholding the fact the VA had 12,000 veterans a year attempting suicide. Yes, that means 1,000 a month tried to kill themselves but that was just part of the story since when you consider while there are 21,978,000 veterans the VA only has 3.7 million collecting compensation. How many veterans do you think are trying to take their own lives with that many in the VA system?

In 2008 the GAO found there was no accountability in the VA for claims processors.

"Lockheed Martin, the contractor hired in July 2006 to compute the complex retroactive pay awards, had difficulty making the computations fast enough to eliminate the backlog quickly. The complexity of the computations also hindered Lockheed Martin’s ability to develop software to automate the process." The result of this was that 8,763 veterans died before their cases could be reviewed.

It was the same year the VA announced online applications started.

The news reports tell a totally different story than what most reporters want to include in their articles. The truth is the truth no matter how much they want to forget about. The biggest issue is when members of the House and Senate on the committees controlling all of this want to forget about what they did not do.
UPDATE February 9, 2014

I was just reading an article on The Hill about this by Megan Wilson. It began with these words.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) took the Department of Veterans Affairs to task over the lengthy wait many veterans face for disability compensation.

In Saturday's weekly Republican address, Burr said the backlog of disability claims from wounded veterans began to improve only after frequent lambasting by The Daily Show.

I left this comment.
Burr is on the Veterans Affairs Committee and should have known that none of this is new. Clinton left 400,000 pending claims for 2001. In 2006 8,763 veterans died before their claims were approved and Lockheed Martin started working on claims. Bush left 816,211 for Obama in 2008. In 2008 the DAV stated they had claims going back 50 years they were still trying to get approved. A WWII veteran drove to VA hospital at the age of 86, pulled out a gun and shot himself with the denial letter in his hand. Burr should have known all of this and the fact that Jon Stewart had to clue him in isn't funny at all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Iraq veterans find the war continues at home with red tape

The thing that breaks my heart more than anything else, other than been there and done that, is the fact when we were going through it, it was from 93 to 99. That is when my husband's claim was finally approved. It was only 50% but it was as if a dark cloud lifted off our heads. He had to fight for the other 50% but it meant a lot more than money. It meant the VA acknowledged that what he was going through was because he served in Vietnam.
Iraq veterans find the war continues at home with red tape
Los Angeles Times
By Alexandra Zavis
Published: December 24, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — Glenda Flowers stood at the edge of a crowd of angry veterans at San Francisco's War Memorial building. They had been waiting months, even years, to hear whether they would receive disability benefits, and they were tired of excuses.

Flowers, a 31-year-old Iraq veteran and mother of two, had come to the meeting with a pair of Veterans Affairs officials because she wanted to be heard. But she was trying too hard to fight back tears to take the microphone.

The social worker who accompanied her couldn't let her be overlooked.

"Nobody brought up here that a lot of these young vets have children," said Marcy Orosco, who heads a Salvation Army transitional housing program in San Francisco.

"Because of this wait, she was living in her car with her children. ... What are you going to do about that?"
read more here

What is like to watch as everything you worked for is threatened? Hell. Pure hell. You know the truth. Doctors know the truth. Proving it to VA claims processors is a different thing. Mess up one piece of paper and they turn down the claim. Have some paperwork that was done wrong and you can kiss your claim goodbye unless you can get it fixed.

Then there are the others discharged under "other than honorable" unable to even find hope that their claims will be approved. They have to prove the military knew they had PTSD but kicked them out anyway. That the excuse of a pre-existing condition like personality disorder didn't measure up considering that every recruit has to pass a mental health exam before they are trained to go to war.

All of this breaks my heart more than the fact they are suffering this much today because nothing was ever fixed all the way for all of them so long ago.

Congress would leave an estimated 150,000 troops at risk for serious brain damage, 2006

NPR:documents show VA did give orders to stop helping wounded 2008. "The document says Col. Becky Baker of the Army Surgeon General's office told the VA to discontinue counseling soldiers on the appropriateness of Defense Department ratings because "there exists a conflict of interest.""

And this too
The fiscal 2009 IT budget request for the Veterans Benefits Administration is about 18 percent less than the fiscal 2008 proposal. The overall IT budget for the Veterans Affairs Department, VBA's parent agency, jumped 18 percent in President Bush's latest request.

VBA's pending compensation and claims backlog stood at 816,211 as of January 2008, up 188,781 since 2004, said Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of the Disabled Veterans of America, during a Wednesday hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Investigates: Thousands of area vets stuck in disability limbo with VA

Investigates: Thousands of area vets stuck in disability limbo with VA
by Chris Nagus
News 4 Investigates
Posted on November 19, 2013

(KMOV) – Lee Kedge is one of the 700,000 veterans stuck in disability limbo with the Veterans Administration.

There’s a place they sent my appeal off to called the black hole, it's ridiculous,” said James Carver.

Ashley Buska, suffered a stroke while serving at Fort Bliss in Texas when she was 21.

“I got a letter saying it's taking a long time because it's taking a long backlog,” said Buska. “Before I joined the military, I was perfectly healthy, nothing wrong.”

She tried filing what’s called a Quick Start Claim through the VA but there’s been nothing quick about it. Nearly four years, a bunch of clerical errors and no answers later, she’s still waiting to find out about her claim.

The problem is no secret to lawmakers. In August, a bunch of U.S. Senators including Senator Blunt and McCaskill, sent letters to President Obama asking to improve the claims process. That process averages 474 days for St. Louis area vets, almost a year and a half and for some, much longer.
read more here

Friday, November 8, 2013

Backlog of VA Disability Claims Reduced by 34 Percent since March

Backlog of Disability Claims Reduced by 34 Percent since March
93 Percent of Claims Over One Year Old Completed

WASHINGTON (Nov. 7, 2013) –The Department of Veterans Affairs has made significant progress in reducing the backlog of disability compensation claims – from 611,000 to 400,835 or 34 percent -- since peaking in March. Concurrently, VA improved the accuracy of disability ratings, and provided hundreds of thousands of claims decisions to Veterans who have waited the longest.

“Veterans shouldn’t have to wait for the benefits they’ve earned,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.  “This has never been acceptable, but we are executing our plans and moving in the right direction to meet our 2015 goal of eliminating the backlog.  We still have more work to do, but we are making clear progress and no one is more committed than our VBA employees, more than half of whom are Veterans themselves.”

Since the VA launched the initiative to eliminate the oldest claims first, claims processors at the 56 regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) have been focused on claims that had been waiting longer than one year.  As of Nov. 4, VBA has completed 93 percent of these older claims, resulting in over 476,000 decisions for Veterans since the initiative began on April 19.  The proportion of claims decisions that resulted in benefits being granted remained on par with historical averages—between 65 and 70 percent.

At the same time, the accuracy of rating decisions has improved.  The three-month average for decision accuracy when evaluating a complete claim file is 90 percent -- a 5 percentage point improvement since 2011, and a 7 percentage point improvement since 2010.  The three-month average accuracy for rating individual medical conditions inside each claim has climbed three points to 96.7 percent since December 2012.

VBA also directed 20 hours of mandatory overtime per month for claims processors, and worked with the Veterans Health Administration to place VA physicians in regional offices to review medical evidence to help speed decisions.  Mandatory overtime was halted during the government shutdown in October, but has been re-established and will continue through Nov. 23.  VBA anticipates mandatory overtime to continue in 2014, based on available funding.  Optional overtime for claims processors will remain in effect.

“I am grateful to our employees, many who have been working long periods of overtime since May, for their great dedication in helping our Veterans get the benefits they’ve earned,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.  “I talk to them every day and they are committed to building on their record-breaking progress, helping transform the VA into a paperless system, and ending the backlog for good.”

In the coming months, VBA will continue its effort on further reducing the backlog, focusing on those claims that have been pending the longest.  VBA will also continue to prioritize disability claims for homeless Veterans, those experiencing extreme financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims (FDC).  Filing an electronic FDC is the quickest way for Veterans to receive a decision on their compensation claim ( 

Regardless of the status of their compensation claims, Veterans who have served in combat since Nov. 11, 1998, are eligible for five years of free medical care from VA for most conditions.

Veterans can learn more about disability and other Veterans benefits on the joint Department of Defense/VA web portaleBenefits at

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review history if you think VA claims are bad now

Review history if you think VA claims are bad now
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
October 28, 2013

There are so many really stupid emails going around right now that my head is about to explode. Veterans are getting very upset about things they shouldn't be upset about and not worrying about the things they need to know.

Start with Affordable Care Act and Veterans and read the rest on this link but here is the part you really need to know.
The answer is the Affordable Care Act will not directly impact VA health care system nor will it affect TRICARE or TRICARE for Life beneficiaries (military active duty personnel, retirees and their dependents). Veterans eligible for VA health care will remain eligible under health reform; nothing in the proposed legislation will affect veterans’ access to the care that they currently are receiving. The legislation makes clear that the Department of Veterans Affairs will retain full authority over the VA health care system.

However, the devil is always in the details. A report authored by Jennifer M. Haley and Genevieve M. Kenney for the Urban Institute says that some 1.3 million veterans under the age of 65 are uninsured. It is this population that needs to be better informed about their health care options: which ones to chose and how to exercise them. “It is important that the VA is prepared and communicates with veterans," says Congressman Mike Michaud of Maine, the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The claim backlog is another thing these emails keep getting wrong. For starters, Vietnam veterans are the majority of the new claims as well as the supplemental claims.

According to the VA Claim report they put out on Monday's these are the latest numbers.

711,775 Pending Claims. Vietnam veterans are 36%, followed by Gulf War Veterans at 25%, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at 20%, Peacetime at 11% and Other at 8%.

For the backlog of 405,656, again, Vietnam veterans are the largest group at 37%, Gulf War at 24%, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans 21%, Peacetime 11% and Other at 7%.

Then there is the part about how this congress loves to complain about the backlog even though they were complaining about it for decades over and over again because they never really fixed it when they had a chance to really do something that would matter in the long run.

This is what it looked like in February of 2008
VBA's pending compensation and claims backlog stood at 816,211 as of January 2008, up 188,781 since 2004, said Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of the Disabled Veterans of America, during a Wednesday hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
This is what it looked like in April of 2008
Since 2006, the number of claims has grown 15 percent. The amount of time it takes to make decisions on disability claims is two to three year. On an average, it takes four years to get an appeals decision.”
By July there was this report
The report by the majority staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform domestic policy panel, released Tuesday, concluded that at least 28,283 disabled retirees were denied retroactive pay awards because rushed efforts to clear a huge backlog of claims led program administrators to stop doing quality assurance checks on the claims decisions.

And of the original 133,057 potentially eligible veterans, 8,763 died before their cases could be reviewed for retroactive payments, according to the report.
This is the newest piece of news on the backlog.
U.S. Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.) says help is on the way for veterans waiting for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to process their disability claims. Kirk says the backlog has grown, saying veterans are waiting up to 534 days for their claims to be processed. “That’s the bad news,” Kirk said. “The good news is buried in the VA appropriations bill, of which I’m the lead Senate Republican, we have all of Chairman Tim Johnson’s 10 points to eliminate this backlog.”

This is just a start of the growing list of emails being pushed by veterans not fact checking what their friends send them. If your friends or politicians want to pretend any of this is new, then tell them the truth so that maybe, just maybe they may fix it the right way for a change and we don't see repeated suffering that didn't need to happen.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

William and Mary Law School’s Puller Clinic Joins Fully Developed Claims

August 21, 2013
William and Mary Law School’s Puller Clinic Joins Fully Developed Claims Community of Practice

WASHINGTON (August 21, 2013) – The Department of Veterans Affairs today welcomed William & Mary Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic to the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Community of Practice. The Puller Clinic is the first law school clinic in the nation to join the FDC Community of Practice.

As a result of this new partnership, William and Mary faculty from the Puller clinic will participate in an FDC workshop today at the Roanoke regional office.

The FDC Community of Practice was established in May to promote the submission of FDCs and speed the processing of Veterans’ disability compensation claims by providing all available evidence needed by VA to reach a disability rating decision. The Puller Clinic joins Veterans Service Organizations, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, and the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, who are current members of the Community.

“We’re delighted to have the Puller Clinic join the effort to increase the number of Veterans filing fully developed claims,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “It’s indicative of the expanding national partnership assisting in the timely delivery of Veterans benefits.”

“This is a win-win-win: Veterans receive benefits to which they are entitled, the VA receives more claims that are accurate and complete, and William & Mary law students develop new skills as well as an appreciation for pro bono service,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner. “I could not be more pleased with this significant announcement from the VA.”

Claims are considered “fully developed” when Veterans submit all available supporting evidence, such as private treatment records, at the time they first file a formal claim – and certify they have no additional evidence to submit. VA can typically complete FDCs in half the time of traditionally filed claims.

“I congratulate the Puller Clinic on their joining the FDC Community of Practice,” said Will A. Gunn, VA’s general counsel. “I’m optimistic that their example will encourage other institutions of higher learning to do the same.”

VA is currently conducting workshops at its regional offices around the country to help Veteran advocates learn the importance of FDCs and how to help Veterans prepare them.

“The Puller Clinic’s approach to claims provides a national model for how law schools across the country can help solve the nation's backlog of Veterans' benefits claims,” said William and Mary President Taylor Reveley. “Today’s announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs reflects the tireless leadership of Senator Mark Warner, the great work being done at William and Mary Law School, and the determination of the VA to work collaboratively to address the needs of our Veterans.”

VA also recently announced that Veterans filing their first-ever compensation claims as FDCs may be entitled to up to one year of retroactive disability benefits. The retroactive benefits, which are in effect Aug. 6, 2013, through Aug. 5, 2015, are a result of a comprehensive legislative package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year.

Veterans can learn more about disability benefits on the joint Department of Defense-VA web portal eBenefits at

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Veterans' petition signers need history lesson

In petition, veterans call for Obama to fire VA secretary
Washington Post
By Steve Vogel
Published: August 20

A petition signed by a reported 26,000 veterans and sent to the White House on Tuesday calls for President Obama to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, saying a change of leadership is needed to eliminate the lengthy backlog of veterans awaiting action on their disability claims.

In advance of the petition, the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday released figures reporting that the backlog of claims pending more than 125 days is down by almost 20 percent from its highest point more than four months ago.
The claims backlog — those cases pending 125 days or longer — stands at 490,000, which is down from the 530,000 reported June 15, figures show. VA says its total claims inventory of 773,000 is the lowest since April 2011, and down from 808,000 on June 15.
read more here

Where were they when Fort Drum ordered the VA to not help with claims?
Army officials in upstate New York instructed representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs not to help disabled soldiers at Fort Drum Army base with their military disability paperwork last year. That paperwork can be crucial because it helps determine whether soldiers will get annual disability payments and health care after they're discharged. (Morning Edition, January 29, 2008)

Where were they when this came out?
VBA's pending compensation and claims backlog stood at 816,211 as of January 2008, up 188,781 since 2004, said Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of the Disabled Veterans of America, during a Wednesday hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. ( February 13, 2008)

In 2000 the VA had 578,000 claims come in. By 2007 it was 838,000. But what was not so easy to find was the report obtained by Veterans For Common Sense about this.
“Since 2006, the number of claims has grown 15 percent. The amount of time it takes to make decisions on disability claims is two to three year. On an average, it takes four years to get an appeals decision.

The same year the GAO said there was no accountability for claims processors. Since I have thousands of these reports to review, while it is appalling how long veterans have to wait for their claims to be honored, the truth is, it was never fixed right for their sake and unless people stop playing politics and paying attention when they want, what happens to veterans will always be a political football. It wasn't right in the 90's and hasn't been right for generations but unless people actually do some basic homework to discover what the truth is, nothing will be fixed right for their sake.

By the way, don't wait for reporters to put all of this together for you. They won't. They just repeat what they are told.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

President Obama on VA Backlog

Yesterday at the DAV Convention in Orlando President Obama talked for over 30 minutes. He covered a lot of subjects so I'll be breaking them down in a series of videos so you can find the topic you care most about. This one is one the VA Backlog.

I had to film it off the screen because people kept getting in the way to take pictures.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

VA Grants up to One Year Retroactive Benefits for Veterans Filing Fully Developed Claims

VA Grants up to One Year Retroactive Benefits for Veterans Filing Fully Developed Claims to Help Reduce the Backlog
August 1, 2013
New Benefit Takes Effect August 6 for First-Time Filers

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that Veterans filing an original Fully Developed Claim (FDC) for service-connected disability compensation may be entitled to up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits. The retroactive benefits, which are in effect Aug. 6, 2013, through Aug. 5, 2015, are a result of a comprehensive legislative package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year.

“VA strongly encourages Veterans to work with Veterans Service Organizations to file Fully Developed Claims and participate in this initiative, since it means more money in eligible Veterans’ pockets simply by providing VA the information it needs up front,” said Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits. “At the same time, it helps reduce the inventory of pending claims by speeding the process.”

Filing an FDC is typically the fastest way for Veterans to receive a decision on their claims because Fully Developed Claims require Veterans to provide all supporting evidence in their possession when they submit their claims. Often, this is evidence that VA legally must attempt to collect on the Veteran’s behalf, which is already in the Veteran’s possession, or is evidence the Veteran could easily obtain, like private treatment records.

When Veterans submit such evidence with their claims, it significantly reduces the amount of time VA spends gathering evidence from them or other sources -- often the longest part of the claims process.

While VA will still make efforts to obtain federal records on the Veterans’ behalf, the submittal of non-federal records (and any federal records the Veteran may have) with the claim allows VA to issue a decision to the Veteran more quickly.

Typically, VA processes FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim.

FDCs can be filed digitally through the joint, DoD-VA online portal, eBenefits ( VA encourages Veterans who cannot file online to work with an accredited Veterans Service Organization (VSO) who can file claims digitally on Veterans’ behalf.

While submitting an FDC provides a faster decision for any compensation or pension claim, only Veterans who are submitting their very first compensation claim as an FDC are potentially eligible for up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits under the newly implemented law.

FDCs help eliminate VA’s claims backlog because they increase production of claims decisions and decrease waiting times. Also, VA assigns FDCs a higher priority than other claims which means Veterans receive decisions to their claim faster than traditional claims.

VA continues to prioritize other specific categories of claims, including those of seriously wounded, terminally ill, Medal of Honor recipients, former Prisoners of War, the homeless and those experiencing extreme financial hardship. As part of its drive to eliminate the claims backlog in 2015, VA also gives a priority to claims more than a year old.

In May, VA announced a new partnership with Veterans Service Organizations and others known as the “Community of Practice,” an effort that seeks to reduce the compensation claims backlog for Veterans by increasing the number of FDCs filed by Veterans and their advocates.

VA is continuing to implement several initiatives to meet the Department’s goal to eliminate the claims backlog in 2015. In May, VA announced that it was mandating overtime for claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices to increase production of compensation claims decisions through the end of FY 2013. In April, VA launched an initiative to expedite disability compensation claims decisions for Veterans who have a waited a year or longer

As a result of these initiatives, VA’s total claims inventory remains at lower levels not seen since August 2011. The number of claims in the VA backlog – claims pending over 125 days – has been reduced by 17 percent compared to the highest point in March 2013.

Veterans can learn more about disability benefits on the joint Department of Defense—VA web portal eBenefits at, and the FDC program at

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Boston VA claims prove Vietnam veterans are largest percentage of claims

The media has been focusing on the OEF and OIF veterans as if everyone else was taken care of. The truth is, we didn't take care of Gulf War veterans and we sure didn't take care of Vietnam veterans. That is worth talking about since it also points out one very simple fact. They are waiting in line because no President, no Congress has ever put veterans first. As bad as it is for the newer veterans, if we don't get the VA fixed now, what will it be like for them 20, 30 or 40 years from now?
Boston sixth longest wait for vets' disability
Sentinel and Enterprise
By Rick Sobey
Posted: 06/30/2013

With a seemingly endless number of Vietnam veterans learning about available benefits and countless veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the veteran disability wait in Boston is one of the highest in the nation.

But Billerica Vietnam veteran Frank Busalacchi and Tyngsboro Veteran Agent Chris Dery, who's in a two-year backlog, are not surprised the average Boston claims are taking about a year.

"It's the perfect storm right now," Dery said. "Boston gives some of the best benefits, which keeps all the veterans here. The VA is doing all they can. They're just up against the wall."

As of June 22 in the Boston Veterans Affairs regional office, 10,279 claims were pending, and on average, claims had been pending for 306 days. Boston has the sixth longest wait in the country. The Washington, D.C. regional office now has the longest delay -- 442 days.

One of the issues, Busalacchi said, is that many Vietnam veterans did not file claims when they returned in the 1960s and '70s.

"There was the 'too macho, too tough' mentality," said Busalacchi, who filed an eye and knee disability claim in 1967.

"So they waited and waited and waited, and it's really backlogged."

Only 22 percent of the pending claims are from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The rest are from prior wars and peacetime, with Vietnam War vets -- at 36 percent -- comprising the largest group.
read more here

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Editorial on Veterans got the obscenity target wrong

This part got to me. "We believe that is obscene as our nation’s veterans deserve better." but what they missed was the fact the veterans also deserved better from the press. They always ignore their own role in what happened because they simply ignored it or played political games. When they took such an important subject but assigned reporters without a clue, unable and unwilling to do basic research so they know what questions to ask.

That happens all the time. I know my readers are growing weary of reading about THE WARRIOR SAW, SUICIDES AFTER WAR but when you know what is in it, you'll know why I wrote it. It is what they "saw" that haunts them but the DOD and the VA won't address that. There is a difference between what they actually "saw" and how they see themselves afterwards. That is only part of the book. It is about how things got so screwed up after 40 years of research on the connection between combat and PTSD, much different from what civilians end up with. It is about businesses and colleges making billions a year pushing the program experts blame for the rise in suicides along with attempted suicides. It is about how Congress had funded "efforts" for over ten years that do not work and have not held anyone accountable. If the fact veterans are suffering really bothered the editorial board of DNJ, then they should have paid attention all along and told the whole truth.
EDITORIAL: The nation's veterans deserve better
Jun. 26, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs currently has 245,000 veterans who have waited a year or more for the VA to take action on their medical claims. More than half a million have waited 125 days or more, which is the organization’s goal for processing claims.

Recently the VA bragged that most of the backlog that was more than two years old had been cleared.

We believe that is obscene as our nation’s veterans deserve better.

The men and women who serve this country have returned from war only to face a bureaucracy that does not seem focused on providing them the assistance to which they are entitled. Many veterans who face physical injuries or life-long post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are returning and finding the help they need is unavailable.

This is particularly ironic given that June is PTSD Awareness Month and the VA’s own website is filled with articles and links talking about PTSD, symptoms, treatments and more.

The nation has been at war since 2001. Two different presidents, both of whom express a tremendous amount of respect and affection for our nation’s veterans, have seen these problems increase under their administrations. They have seen vets returning from war and facing far too many challenges in trying to get the benefits they’ve earned.
read more here

My Comment
You are right about the two different Presidents however you are missing the most important part. Nothing was ready to care for the wounded before they were sent into Afghanistan in 2001 or into Iraq in 2003. But you also have to go back many more years, more generations, before you find a time when veterans were treated with the dignity and respect they paid for when they were sent to war. If you do that, then it is an honest attempt to fix what has been broken for years. Just an example the backlog of VA claims was over 900,000 in June of 2009. Not the first time veterans were left waiting. Vietnam veterans had the same problem and the bulk of the VA claims are from Vietnam veterans still seeking help for PTSD and Agent Orange. We didn't do right by them but newspapers forget about them all the time. OEF and OIF veterans will be forgotten about when the next war starts unless we fix what is broken now.

By the way, would have been great if they took a look at how long Vietnam veterans waited. My husband's claim took six years and that was back in the 90's. I found all the reports they failed to put together and was shocked by what I discovered.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fully developed VA claims get resolved faster than doing it yourself

Veterans seem shocked when I tell them they need to go and get help to file their claims. The simplest reason is, when a processor sees a claim submitted by a service officer, they knew most of what is needed is in the claim.

Here are just a few to contact to get help making sure your claim is ready to go.
American Legion Service Officers
Disabled American Veterans Service Officers
Veterans of Foreign Wars Service Officers

VA tackles problem of incomplete claims from local veterans
Glut of bad applications clog the system, advocates say
By Ben Wolford
Sun Sentinel
June 16, 2013

"Any veteran who files a Fully Developed Claim will receive expedited processing," said Bruce Clisby, a VA spokesman in St. Petersburg.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has promised to erase the backlog of compensation and pension claims of thousands of veterans in South Florida and nationwide in two years by shifting resources and going digital.

But it is also attempting a lesser-known fix by encouraging "Fully Developed Claims."

Veterans advocates say local VA offices have been bogged down by a barrage of incomplete or meritless applications. The result is that thousands of claims are delayed, often for years, while frail veterans suffer from declining health and financial hardship.

"People were filing claims, and they actually didn't know what they were doing," said Jim Ellard, a veterans services officer at the Fort Lauderdale chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America.

Under pressure from Congress, the VA has rolled out initiative after initiative to try to relieve the glut in its regional offices. This month, it publicized a new six-page form called a Fully Developed Claim, which asks the veteran to certify he or she has no more evidence backing up the claim.
read more here

Friday, June 14, 2013

Veteran Medical Benefits: Clear Out Backlogs

Veteran Medical Benefits: Clear Out Backlogs
Published: Friday, June 14, 2013

Too many veterans are forced, by paperwork backlogs, to wait a long time for their disability benefits. Solutions are needed, but it appears they, too, will take longer than anyone wished.

Washington has not ignored the delays — which stem from a number of causes — but it must keep applying pressure to simplify the system and whittle down the backlog. Progress so far is unsatisfactory.

Last week, the U.S. House approved legislation that includes more funding to help ease the backlogs, through such means as 94 additional claims processors and an ongoing transition to electronic records. The measure — a $73.6 billion spending bill for veteran projects and military construction — also would take some existing money and redirect it to help regional Department of Veterans Affairs centers with the worst backlogs.

Three U.S. representatives with Polk districts voted for the bill, HR 2216: Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, and Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, voted against the bill.
Less than 40 percent of the backlogged claims are from first-time filers. The majority are "supplemental" claims, said VA Undersecretary Allison Hickey.

Demand for disability benefits is "at an all-time high," Hickey said. "We have added more than 940,000 veterans, almost a million veterans to the VA compensation rolls.
read more here

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Half of oldest VA claims cleared with provisional decisions

By Bob Brewin
May 22, 2013

The Veterans Affairs Department has processed 22,000 out of the 42,000 disability claims that have languished for two years or longer, Allison A. Hickey, VA’s undersecretary for benefits, told a House VA Committee hearing today.

The 51 percent reduction occurred after VA kicked off a project on April 19 to eliminate the oldest claims in the backlog within 60 days. Hickey said the department expects to meet that goal.

VA decided to speed up processing of old claims by making a provisional decision to authorize payment to veterans who would then have a year to file additional evidence to support their case. Hickey said that only 5 percent of the old claims rated over the past month had a provisional rating.

Once VA clears out the oldest claims, Hickey said the department will start to work on claims backlogged between one and two years; officials expect to clear those within six months.
read more here

Monday, May 20, 2013

Op Ed article irresponsible on OEF and OIF VA Claims

Most of us can agree things are pretty terrible for veterans trying to have claims approved. More of us can agree there are irresponsible articles popping up and this is one of them.
Nearly 600,000 Wounded Vets Claims for Disability Suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan Wars "backlogged" for Months
By Dave Lefcourt
OpEdNews Op Eds

Let's say you're an Iraq or Afghanistan war veteran and you were seriously wounded during your tour of duty and subsequently upon your return to the states filed a claim for disability compensation to the Department of Veterans Affairs but as yet haven't had your claim processed.

Most likely you're one of almost 600,000 wounded veterans whose claim is "backlogged", meaning it's been pending for over 125 days.

This apparently is not something new for the Veterans Affairs Department where delays in processing claims for disabilities have existed for years.

But now the criticism has grown louder, particularly from the "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America", the largest group representing the veterans of these two wars.

Paul Rieckhoff, the Chief Executive and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans says, "For people in their 20's, the idea that we can't get the technology updated seems ridiculous." These young veterans are impatient for change, no longer willing to tolerate the Department's excuses for the delays.

And they are right on the money with their criticism. They don't want to hear it's the paper system that's blamed for the backlog, apparently an antiquated processing system now overwhelmed by the claims filed by these new veterans.
read more here

My jaw dropped! Why? Today is Monday and the VA puts out a report every week on the status of claims they are processing. This is as of today.

There is a weekly update the VA puts out with a breakdown of claims. Right now there are 606,007 considered "backlog" but 38% of those claims are Vietnam Veterans. OEF and OIF veterans are 22%, Gulf War veterans are 22%, Peacetime are 11% and Other, usually older veterans, are 7%. Here is the link to where you can get the right information. VA Claims This article is irresponsible.
If you check the site you'll see that 60% are claims for increases on top of everything else.

Here is another great place for correct information National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics