22 July 2014

VA Backlog Down - VA Appeals Through the Roof!

While Backlog Drops for Disability Claims
Backlog for Appeals Jump Dramatically

And now another serious problem facing the VAWhile there are clearly some doubters most people think that the backlog for disability adjudications has dropped dramatically. Indeed, this week the VA proudly announced that they had just adjudicated their 1,000,000th claim for this fiscal year. However, this is predictably leading to another backlog increase. There is now a backlog for pending appeals of denied claims… as well as increased delays in other claims matters.

One of the areas that have suffered while most of the VA’s focus has been on adjudicating initial disability claims is the simple job of changing the number of dependents that is covered by a claim. The VA’s own figures show that the number of claims to change the status of a dependent has risen from 35,734 at the start of 2012 to 191,464 on June 28 of this year.

As of June 28th the number of pending appeals has reached
279,435. This has been seen as a growing problem since 2012 when the VA’s Inspector General (IG) suggested that the VA "revise productivity standards" to ensure review officers get credit only for work that moves an appeal forward, according to the most recent IG report to Congress. That has not yet happened.

Laura Eskenazi, Principal Deputy Vice Chairman Board of Veterans' Appeals U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and this the executive in charge of the Board of Veterans' Appeals, said appeals rates have held steady for nearly 20 years, but the total number has risen as more claims have been filed. "If the expectation is a short time frame [to get a decision on an appeal] that would require some trade-off in the due process," she said.

The average time for a denied claim to work its way through the VA’s appeals process shot up to more than 900 days last year After staying between 500 and 750 days for the past decade, what the VA refers to as its “appeals resolution time” hit 923 days in fiscal 2013. That is a 37% jump in one year, from 675 in fiscal 2012. The VA’s long time goal is for an appeal to take 400 days to resolve.

It should be remembered that veterans have a provision in our appeals process that almost no one else has. It permits all appellants (veterans, survivors or their representatives) to submit at any time in the appeal new evidence or information. That triggers a fresh review of the entire appeal. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals can grant, deny or remand the case to one of the VA’s regional offices for additional review. This of course slows appeals down but it is a terrific advantage for the veteran and his/her family.

C-123 Webmaster: It should also be noted that claims can take a year or more from a veteran already ill with cancer or heart disease to be approved, or denied. Submitted then to the BVA the issue can sit on somebody's desk for three or more years, and the veteran's cancer isn't going anywhere in the meantime and VA will continue to refuse to treat the illness unless the vet is eligible for some other reason or injury. Years pass with no pharmacy, no rehab, no prosthetics, no counseling, no pension, no medical care at all. Board of Veterans Appeals make sad reading as claim after claim is resolved in one way or another for the survivors because the veteran has died waiting for the VA.

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