Minnesota residents who have served our country overseas and workers who have spent years supporting their families may feel completely helpless when they learn that they have a disability that will prevent them from being able to continue protecting our country or from working to support their spouses and children. Although disabled veterans and workers may feel helpless and stressed about such significant changes in their health and lives, they should be able to rely on disability benefits to help them pay for living and medical expenses.
Unfortunately, there are millions of people in the U.S. who are in need of disability benefits. This means thousands of folks are filing new applications for benefits every year, and the government is finding it to be quite challenging to keep up with the applications. In an effort to address the problem with the backlog of applications for disability benefits for veterans, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs last week asking the VA to explain why it is taking so long for veterans to receive the benefits they need and are entitled to receive.
In his letter to the VA, Boehner accused the agency of having a "broken" system. The department's backlog of disability claims is very high. On Jan. 24, 2009, the VA reported that about 390,000 claims for disability benefits were pending in the system. As of earlier this month, more than 820,000 claims for disability benefits were pending. With so many claims pending, veterans wait on average about 272 days to have their claims processed. In some parts of the country, veterans are waiting more than 330 days to have their claims processed.
The long wait for benefits may be unacceptable, but the VA claims that it has processed 1 million claims every year for the past three years, which is a record for the department. By the end of the year, the VA hopes to have all 56 regional offices using a paperless system, which is expected to reduce the time it takes to process disability claims. The VA has estimated that its backlog will be eliminated by 2015 once all offices begin using the paperless system.
Disabled veterans who are in need of VA benefits and Social Security disability benefits may not be able to wait more than 300 days to have their applications processed. In order to make sure veterans' best interests remain protected while applying for disability benefits, folks may want to consider consulting an attorney who knows how to fight for the benefits they need and deserve.
Source: Star Tribune, "House speaker says system for veterans' disability claims is broken, cites 'shameful' failures," Lisa Cornwell, Feb. 22, 2013