The VA has been under fire this month for a proposed change to the disability filing rule. The Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as the VA, claim that the sheer number of compensation requests make it difficult for the office to be efficient and actually deliver on the administration of benefits. They report that they have a backlog now of at least 400,000 veterans, who have to wait, on average, 125 days to hear back.
The VA’s proposed solution for this problem is to require veterans to completely fill out a standard form when they file. This solution is currently backed by the Obama Administration. Previously, to get the compensation process started, all one needed was a written note. During the claims process, of course, medical evidence and substantiation of need would be required.
Veterans claim that this move is an attack on the claims system to make it less veteran-friendly. As the Concerned Veterans for America point out in an article published on The Blaze, “What’s worrisome is that the VA is adopting a highly selective form of efficiency that will place heavier burdens on the most vulnerable veterans.”
They also point out that even this small change can present an additional hurdle to many veterans who are already struggling. Veterans are a diverse group, and much has been said about the conditions older veterans often find themselves in, especially those affected by war-caused problems such as PTSD. For homeless or otherwise struggling veterans, it might be very difficult to come up with more than a handwritten note, as many lack the opportunity, ability, or resources needed to complete a very detailed application, or for filing online. In consequence, the most vulnerable veterans — the homeless and those who have mental disabilities — are going to face more trouble meeting the new standard.
The administration has been looking for ways to move records onto a more efficient online system, rather than keeping everything on paper notes. The shift, however, has been difficult as many veterans are elderly and have trouble understanding how to submit information about their claims or appeals online, and many have no computer.
This new regulation is also likely to keep money withheld from veterans, at their own expense. A humane aspect of the current VA disability benefits system is that they are paid out from the day of filing. If it takes the VA a year to approve the request, a veteran would receive backlog benefits from that first day. Now, though, the VA will have the opportunity to continually turn back applications that are incomplete, delaying the “start” day for the benefits to commence from.
According to Military.com, the VA has yet to make a final ruling on this proposed rule, and if they do go ahead and implement the change, then it will be in effect 30 days after being published in the Federal Register.