VSOs and Congress Express Skepticism
During a contentious Congressional hearing last month, Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) voiced significant concerns about the inability of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to process Veterans’ disability claims in a timely and accurate manner.
Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) led the charge against VA.
Representatives from The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and Paralyzed Veterans of America testified at last week’s House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) hearing. They disagreed with the rosy picture painted by VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey, who said the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) transformation plan means all Veterans’ claims would be processed within 125 days and with a two percent error rate by 2015. According to VA’s own data, 65 percent of veterans are now waiting more than 125 days for a claim decision, and VA’s claim decision error rate is 30 percent nationwide, according to audits by VA’s Office of Inspector General.
VSOs sharply criticized and opposed VA’s new Shortened Notification Letter (SNL), part of VA’s transformation plan intended to shorten claim processing time and reduce VA errors. The VFW went further and called for VA to suspend use of the SNL. During his testimony, VFW’s Gerald Manar said, “VBA should suspend the SNL program until they can ensure that veterans receive adequate notice as required by law.”
Manar pointed out that SNLs do not provide Veterans with important information about how and why VA decided a Veteran’s claim, as required by law. DAV’s Jeffrey Hall predicted “the lack of information and confusion created by such abbreviated decision letters will likely lead to more appeals, thereby shifting workload within VBA rather than eliminating it.”
VSOs also expressed concerns about VA’s new Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ). VSOs believe the DBQ forms are too complex for doctors to provide accurate and complete answers to VA regarding Veterans’ medical conditions. VSOs also expressed doubts about whether VA’s new computer processing system would be ready for nation-wide use anytime soon. VSOs told lawmakers they are encountering problems at VA’s four regional offices using the Veterans Benefits Management System as part of a pilot test.
You can view the lengthy and contentious hearing at the HVAC web site.
Bergmann & Moore, LLC, based in the Washington, DC metro area, concentrates only on Veterans disability benefits law. We have helped thousands of Veterans and their families obtain the VA benefits they are entitled to receive. Bergmann & Moore offers a free legal consultation concerning VA disability claims for PTSD. We gladly welcome all types of claims, including PTSD, military sexual trauma cases, and unemployability.