March 10, 2010 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims' processing is already lagging behind schedule and the system will continue to fall behind if nothing is done. The VA is facing a tremendous amount of backlog in processing disability claims. Current estimates hold the VA behind on approximately one million disability claims and appeals.
In what is probably the only possible solution, the VA will fully automate paying claims for service-related illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure. This is the first time in VA history claims processing has been automated.
When Eric Shinseki became the VA Secretary he did not want any disability claim to take more than four months to completely process. Despite that goal, the VA reports 40% of their claims take 161 days on average to process. Without the automation, the processing time will jump to 190 days. The increase is due almost entirely to the new service-related illnesses the VA recognizes as resulting from exposure to Agent Orange.
The VA has compensated veterans with monthly payments for their service-related illness linked to Agent Orange exposure in the past, but only for a limited amount of approved conditions. In what is expected to create 228,000 more claims over the next two years, Secretary Shinseki recently added several new service-related illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure that the VA will compensate veterans for, including:
For now, the automated process will apply only to the new Agent Orange claims. These claims will complement the automated process because the VA will be able to use computers to verify eligibility as opposed to the deficient records that seem to currently plague the disability claims system.
Should the new automated system work, the VA will possibly expand the automation to the rest of the department. Hopefully, at some point, the VA will realize Secretary Shinseki's goal of processing every claim within four months.
If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.
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