Friday, May 3, 2013

Jon Stewart, there is nothing funny about VA claims

Jon Stewart, there is nothing funny about VA claims
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times
May 3, 2013

The Daily Show last night focused on the VA claim backlog. It is a serious subject. While claims are tied up, the obvious issue is the lack of income to cover their lost incomes due to service connected disabilities. What is not so obvious is what the denials and waiting does to these veterans and their families.

My husband's claim took six years. We couldn't pay our bills but that was not the worst thing. The VA took our tax refunds to pay for his care because our private health insurance would not cover his treatment. They said due to the diagnosis, it was the responsibility of the VA to take care of him. When did that happen? He filed his claim in 1993 and it was not approved until 1999! The stress added to his PTSD, the very thing that he was seeking treatment for. He had great doctors and they worked with me helping him get through all of that.

While Stewart is focusing on the "issue" now, it is not a new problem and there are many reasons for the backlog being increased. It is about as bad as it was in 2008.
By March of 2007, the Boston Globe reported that the backlog of claims had gone from 69,000 in 2000 to 400,000 in 2007 taking 177 days to process an original claim and 657 days to process an appeal. The news got worse with a staggering 915,000 in 2009 with 803,000 with the Board of Appeals.

“Backlogs are at the point where veterans must wait an average of six months for a decision on benefits claims and some veterans are waiting as long as four years,” number of unprocessed veterans claims exceeds 915,000 — a 100,000 jump since the beginning of the year.” (Have VA Pay old claims automatically, Rick Maze, Marine Corps Times, June 30, 2009)

The VA has a weekly release of the claims. As of Monday, 60% are "supplemental claims" because while the veteran has received some benefits, most of the time they have to appeal for a higher rate or have other illnesses that may be service connected as well.

Then there is the breakdown of who is filing the claims. Pending Claims has 865,989 claims with 37% coming from Vietnam Veterans, 23% from Gulf War Veterans, 20% from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, 11% listed as Peacetime and 9% from "Other Veterans." There are 606,007 considered "backlog" claims. They breakdown pretty much the same way.

Characteristics of the pending Compensation Inventory
VA tracks claims that make up the pending Compensation Inventory by a Veteran’s era of service. As of Dec 31, 2012, claims from Veterans of the following eras make up VA’s inventory (total number of claims) and backlog (claims pending for more than 125 days):

Source: Dept. Veterans Affairs, 3/28/13
Backlog: Claims pending longer than 125 days
Post-9/11 (Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts) claims make up 21% of the total inventory and 22% of the backlog
Gulf War (definition) claims make up 23% of the total inventory and 21% of the backlog Peacetime (period between end of Vietnam and Gulf War) claims make up 11% of the total inventory and 11% of the backlog
Vietnam claims make up 37% of the total inventory and 38% of the backlog
Korean War claims make 4% of the total inventory and 4% of the backlog
World War II claims make up 3% of the total inventory and 3% of the backlog
Other era claims make up 1% of the total inventory and 1% of the backlog

Original vs. Supplemental Claims
VA’s current Inventory of compensation claims contains both "original" claims—those submitted by Veterans of all eras who are claiming disability compensation from VA for the first time, and “supplemental” claims—those submitted by Veterans of all eras who have previously filed for disability compensation with VA. Below is a breakout of the original and supplemental claims in the current VA inventory:

60% of pending claims are supplemental, 40% are original.
77% of Veterans filing supplemental claims are receiving some level of monetary benefit from VA.
11% of Veterans filing supplemental claims already have a 100% disability rating (receive $2800 or more per month) or qualify for Individual Unemployability (compensated at the 100% disabled rate).
40% of Veterans filing supplemental claims are already rated at 50% disability or higher. 43% of supplemental claims are from Vietnam-era Veterans; 19% are from Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
There are 3.9 million Veterans of all eras who are currently in receipt of disability benefits from VA. Of those, 10% have a supplemental claim in the pending compensation inventory. In fiscal year 2012, VA delivered $54 billion in compensation and pension benefits.

The VBA's Office of Performance Analysis and Integrity is responsible for compiling these spreadsheets. Questions or comments should be e-mailed to VBA's Office of Field Operations which is responsible for regional office management.

There was a backlog of claims already but the rules were changed to help Vietnam veterans and they were encouraged to file claims previously denied for Agent Orange and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As you can see, the claims backlog was already at this rate without doing the right thing for Vietnam veterans.

Stewart seems to think he is doing some good by focusing on the problem that is leaving veterans and their families suffering but unfortunately, while he may have thought it was a good thing to do, making fun of a serious issue like this did no one any service but Stewart.

We should feel grateful that he is at least talking about this but unless the public is informed on what is really going on and how long it has been happening, we will repeat the same mistakes years from now.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If it is not helpful, do not be hurtful. Spam removed so do not try putting up free ad.