Experts, Legislators Offer Fixes to Chronic Claim Delays.
As newspaper editorials such as the Washington Examiner, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Charlotte News-Observer sharpen their attacks, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) needs to think and act quickly outside of the box if it intends to fix the worsening claim delay and error crisis at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
As of May 6, 2013, VBA took 332 days to process a claim that is wrong 30 percent of the time on high-risk claims. That’s up from 95 days in October 2010, according to data obtained exclusively by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Thankfully, experts and legislators continue offering bold suggestions so Veterans don’t wait for disability benefits.
Here are a few proposals to fix VBA:
- At the College of William and Mary in Virginia, the Daily Press reports how a group of 14 law school students voluntarily help Veterans with benefit claims. Under supervision from an attorney, the students review stacks of Veterans’ documents and connect veterans with other students who can also help, including psychology students who assist with posttraumatic stress (PTSD) claims.
- In New York, The Farmingdale Patch reports that U.S. Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) announced the “End the VA Claims Backlog Now Act” bill, which would give provisional benefits to Veterans with claims older than 125 days, for disability ratings up to 40 percent.
- In 2007, Harvard professor Linda Bilmes, advanced the idea VA use an “IRS Model” in handling claims. In Congressional testimony, she noted that the current system “places the full burden of collecting evidence and medical records on the Veteran. The solution is to reverse the paradigm and have [VA] grant presumption of eligibility.” Bilmes said a Veteran could receive benefits for two years, “in the same way that we offer free health care for two years – during which time the claim can be fully processed. A sample of claims can be audited to deter fraud.”
- This week, U.S. Representative Bill Enyart (D-IL) proposed granting “provisional” ratings to Veterans with claims pending more than 125 days. Reporter Chris McDaniel reports about Rep. Enyart’s plan at the St. Louis Public Radio web site. Veterans and the public can expect more ideas from Congress soon.
- For a summary of more ideas, please read this article in Bangor Daily News (Maine) provided by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) to the newspaper.
As the pressure mounts, hard-working and dedicated VA employees are feeling the heat of the extended crisis. Last week, the Tampa Tribune reported deteriorating morale at VBA’s St. Petersburg claims processing office.
A VA employee blogger refreshingly acknowledges that when veterans enter the claims system, they often view VA regional offices as “black holes” where their claims go to languish. The blog sheds some light on what VA Regional Offices offices are, how they work, and how their staffs do their jobs.