Balancing the Record on the Claims Backlog

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, people want to know how VA is taking care of our Veterans. There has been a lot of discussion recently about the compensation claims backlog and what the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is doing about it.

We at VA – many of us Veterans ourselves – know that Veterans, their families and survivors wait too long for the benefits they have earned and deserve. The fact is our average days-to-complete a claim currently sits at 273 days. All of us at VA agree this is unacceptable, and this is why we have been busy implementing a robust plan to fix the problem and end our reliance on paper-based claims.

Secretary Shinseki has set the goal: no claim over 125 days with 98% accuracy by the end of 2015. VA is aggressively building a strong foundation for a paperless, digital disability claims system – a lasting solution that will transform how we operate and eliminate the backlog. This new system will be installed in all 56 of our regional offices by the end of this year. Twenty-five offices have it now.

The backlog didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t end overnight. After ten years at war, the volume and complexity of claims is increasing as more servicemembers leave the military. Improved battlefield medicine has meant that more of our younger Veterans are coming home to their families, but with very complex injuries.

Claims submitted by Post-9/11 Veterans include more than double the number of conditions claimed by Veterans of the Vietnam era. To put this in perspective, in 2009 (the year Secretary Shinseki assumed office), VA processed claims for 2.7 million individual medical conditions. Last year, that number had grown to over 4 million.

At the same time, Veterans of previous wars are living longer and many have the opportunity to file for benefits for the first time, thanks to decisions made by Secretary Shinseki. These decisions to do right by Veterans were long overdue, and have dramatically increased access for many Veterans who would not otherwise been able to file for benefits. The decision to expand the number of illnesses presumed to be linked with Agent Orange exposure redirected over one third of VBA’s workforce to process 260,000 Agent Orange claims. This grew the backlog, but it was the right decision to make for our Vietnam Veterans who, in some cases, were waiting over 40 years. In fact, Vietnam-era Veterans represent the largest group in the current claims inventory at 37%.

We also liberalized the rules for connecting PTSD to service, as well as adding nine diseases associated with service in the Gulf War to the list of presumptive conditions – again, long overdue. Over the last 4 years, over 940,000 Veterans were added to the compensation rolls — more Veterans than are on Active Duty in the Army and Navy combined today.

A tough economy and increased outreach efforts by VA to encourage Veterans to apply for earned benefits have also made our effort to tackle the backlog more challenging. Despite this, VA has completed a record-breaking 1 million claims per year the last three fiscal years, and completed 4.1 million claims the past four years. In 2012 alone, VA provided $58.6 billion in disability compensation to 4.3 million Veterans and survivors.
In this challenging environment, there are several new initiatives – as part of the VA Transformation Plan – that Veterans and Veteran service representatives can take advantage of today to help VA process their claim as quickly as possible:

  • eBenefits is a joint VA-DoD client services portal with over 45 self-service options that allows users to file benefits claims online in an easy-to-use, prompt-based system, upload supporting claims information that feeds into VA’s paperless claims process, check the status of claims or appeals, review VA payment history, obtain military documents, and perform numerous other benefit actions.
  • Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQ) are designed to capture all the needed medical information relevant to a specific condition and give Veterans the option of having their private physician provide this information to VA, minimizing the need for a VA exam. More than 70 DBQs are available today for use by private medical physicians.
  • Fully Developed Claims (FDC) identify the claim-specific information and evidence needed to substantiate a claim at the time of application, and allow Veterans to certify that there is nothing further to give VA regarding the claim, preventing VA from undertaking a lengthy search for any missing information or evidence
    Veterans and survivors who are able to do so, should submit as much evidence as they can at the time they submit their claims. Doing so allows VA to work claims much faster — meaning Veterans and survivors get accurate decisions sooner.

The backlog is a decades old problem. We have studied it carefully and engaged with Veterans Service Organizations and others to determine the right approach. Eliminating the backlog requires a radical overhaul of the way VA does business and that takes time. The good news is we are on the right path to succeed and deliver faster, more accurate results for Veterans.

Allison Hickey, a retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General, is VA’s Under Secretary for Benefits.

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126 Comments to “Balancing the Record on the Claims Backlog”

  1. 2015 is way too long to get this in place. 2014 should be the goal. It should never have gotten to this stage in the first place.

    • Jody says:

      Please offer some suggestions how to accomplish your stated goal if 2014. If don’t have a solution then you are part of the problem and shouldn’t comment on something you are not knowledgeable on.

    • Cat Trombley says:

      James,
      The backlog is a decades old problem caused by changes in law, widening access, the economy, and 10 years of war. At VA, we know the wait times are unacceptable, but to really fix the problem, and ensure that we can sustain it, we need time. 2015 is our goal, we are implementing new technology, changing our processes and changing the way we train employees. Change of this magnitude is not overnight.

      • Brian says:

        The problem with the VBA Regional offices is that many of the workers processing claims are only GS 5/6 with low pay, I know, I applied for a position back in 2009. These employees learn thier job, get qualified to process claims and start looking for new higher paying positions after 6 months. So just as they are fully trained they are looking to move on because the ability to move up or even making a decent wage just isn’t there. Retainability sucks, and there hasn’t been a change in how to keep good claims processors in their positions. This is just one of the problems!

        • John says:

          Brian, the statement you made is inadequate at best. I would hope that one would do some fact checking before making such remarks. The people who process claims at the VA are GS-7 at a minimum. I know because I work there.

      • rcp says:

        fully agree. As a Vietnam Vet I have been thru the “Fast Trak” process for Agent Orange disability. Two years before I got my first check. Still waiting on retro pay. However…. I cannot completely beat up on the VA folks… they need high tech upgrades… total ELECTRONIC, TRANSPARENT integration with other agencies, DOD etc. so we can get out of the paper drill.

      • Ben Babbitt says:

        I am a gulf war veteran and I have injury’s
        to both feet and my back all service connected. I have lost felling in both my feet and half way up to my knee my claim was rejected twice now I have ben waiting for a video conference for over a year. We all need help and some have been waiting way too long.

      • Steven says:

        You have had ample time, it seems like for older vets you are just waiting for them to die….age should be a criteria for claim, I have waited for 5 years for appeals, and will appeal with civilian lawer if denied again, but time is slipping by!!!!!!

    • Rick says:

      This is all garbage and lies. I find it amazing the VA is amazingly fast at dropping people off your disability compensation and dependent list. BUT takes over 18 months to add a new wife or child..18 months for 1 piece of paper is staggering.

      • Joe DuBois says:

        I concur I remarried in Noverber 2008 and it took the VA over a year to reconized that I had a new spouse. When my first wife passed they reduced my benefits with in 30 days or less

      • Jason says:

        So true. I added my wife, had a child a year later and then added her. Neither had been approved and instead of approving adding my wife which had been in the system for over a year, they combined the two together for approval and now I have to wait another year to get both approved.

    • Ron says:

      Too many initial applications are rejected by VA that should be approved on first submission, thus adding to the backlog. I applied for tinnitus and hearing loss in both ears with complete audiology evidence and details about my combat exposures detailed in my military/medical files that the national archives and the VA Regional Office sent me. However, VA initially denied all three claims, causing me to appeal my claim. They approved me for tinnitus on first appeal, but denied the hearing loss again. I then appealed that decision and asked for a review of my claim with a DRO before all three was finally approved. No new evidence was found or provided to VA during the claims process – all evidence was in my file from day one. I don’t my case is an exception.

    • Anastasia says:

      I’ve been out since 1988. I’m disable. Have permanent nevrve damage that I was not awarded a clim for in my jaw. Have lost teeth due to the nerve damage and now need $25K in restorative dental work in addition to having to be put to sleep every time I have my teath worked on because the exterior nerves are dead but the interior nerves are hypersensatie causing excruciating pain!
      It’s rediculous. I also filed my dependent children in college in a timely manner yet my compensation was promptly reduced when my son turned 18!

  2. Peter says:

    I returned from OND with emotional and alcohol problems. I have in patient. Will be billed for this?

  3. Tom Dullaghan says:

    My question, Why, does the VA Claims center combine each different claim, made at different dates, together???. I was told that each claim stands by it’s self. It’s not the case!

    Again, everyone at the VA, does not know what’s going on.

    • Cat Trombley says:

      I’m not sure if I understand the question… I think you are asking why if you file a claim and then a couple of months later, file another claim, does it set things back. Your claims file is most likey a paper file. That means there is only one copy. When you submit a new claim, by law VA has to do certain things, like ask you for evidence to support the newest claim. Since your file cannot be in two places at once, the claims have to be worked together (though its true that claims stand on their own merit). This process is what we are changing. With our new digital processing system and the creation of an eFile, VA can split claims. Hopefully, that answers your question.

    • Thomas Lawler says:

      “The fact is our average days-to-complete a claim currently sits at 273 days.”
      This fact I find very biased; if not an out right falsehood.
      “All claims” are “denied” the first time through, just for a matter of fact.
      Mine have all been denied, then all grouped together, under new headings by the VA, when I was homeless, and given a new start date that is now 5 years after the initial claim, and put at the bottom of the list.
      When one of the claims did go through for PTSD, they backlogged the date by 4 years from the date it was filed. The back log date was the exact date of the favorable decision!
      Their reasoning was that it was my claim was during a period when they were transitioning to an all electronic medical record. The original records were mistakenly archived in another State and were transcribed incorrectly. The VA transposed my SS# on some records and those records are filed who knows where. Luckily one of my physicians remembered me and was able to prove that what I had claimed was the truth, by physically going into the VAMC and retrieving the records in person. The Dr. told me that the only reason that he was able to write a letter for me is that he was retired and not afraid of “reprisals.”
      Now they (VA) are going for the “instant” electronic claim and three of my claims have disappeared “again.” I am so thankful that I kept my own copies of the medical records. I’ve had to have them scanned into the electronic file four (4) times before they were accessible by the VBA. (go figure) I am still waiting and it has been six years now for one of the claims.

      • Paul Barger says:

        I have to disagree with the denied statment on the first claim. All of my claims have been approved the first time. I can say that with appeals they last forever I have appealed one claim 3 times and it continues to be denied but as a past VA employee I lost my job there partly due to that claim so I contiune to appeal, it has been 4 years now. One might say that maybe it depends on the VA where you file your claim on how fast and decisions are made. I do find it interesting how many claims are denied for people that I know are in very bad shape. As a past VFW officer I seen many denied that clearly are disabled.
        I hope this new system takes care of most of the problems God knows there are going to be alot more over the next 10 years. This country needs to take notice and take better care of our vets instead of always wanting to cut the budget. If ya send them to war then be expected to have to take care of them when they get back. The VA is under alot of stress and they try hard “for the most part” but some do not seem to care about us at all only the paycheck, I know I worked for the VA.I have involved 2 Congressmen on my claim but still no help. The Ebenefits page never seems to update the info, that is what frustrates me the most.

        God Bless all of my fellow vets, keep your head up and keep driving.
        Life member VFW, DAV, past VA Police Dispatcher fired due to PTSD and awiting claim decision on it. So much for wanting to employ disabled veterans I tried everything to stay only to be let go due to my unemployability and their inability to find a position for me due to my disabilities. That said they better approve my claim for PTSD I suppose to know by June 2013 only time will tell.

  4. Stephen D. Cunningham says:

    Who Do I Have To See ,Iam A TBIS of 40 years On Active Duty .I went without Care

  5. jeff burum says:

    I applaud the VA mission but I don’t buy the avg number used as a service metric… the median and mode should be used….I guess if they accidentally don’t count “lost” or certain records the avg becomes more palatable to those unaffected; I suggest the avg is at least twice as long given the stories of real veterans experiences and given the bureaucratic process in itself. I am personally in the third yr of the claims process and I know numerous others in the same boat. I hate to see the govt lose credibility with a known problem

    • Randy Metcalf says:

      I filed a VA COM CLAIM DATED OCTOBER 14, 2010 that is over 29 months, 888 days ago. The VA has had all of my records for over a year, and as far as I know nothing has been done on my claim. No word from the VA for over a year also. My Congressman wrote the VA in September 2012 and was told that they would be assigning my claim to a experience claim processor ASAP and it should be finished within two weeks. It now has been over 6 months since they said it would be finished.
      SO I KNOW THE AVERAGE CLAIM TIME IS WAY OVER A YEAR NOW.
      CAN ANYONE HELP ME.

    • Nick Swan says:

      I am a vet with the same set of problems. 70% disabled, 4 NOD’s dating back to 6/10/2010, I have 6 secondary conditions not yet rated, 6 under appeal and 1 with 2 nexus letters establishing OSA as secondary condition to my DMII. with has been on file for the past 7 months with NO response. I am over 1000 days on my claims and still No movement out of the Wichita Ks, VA Center.

    • Bill says:

      Hasn’t stopped them so far…

  6. Juan says:

    I work all my life, I served My Country Proud, Desert Storm Veteran, I worked and worked and worked until My Service Connected shot Me down, after a month not able to work any longer I had to applied for Social Security Benefits, I was approve in ten for SSB, I am waiting for VA since early 2000 and maybe I will be another veteran who die before I see any result from the VA decision, I am not mad just disappointed for the wait since 2000 from the VA and SSA decided my claim ten months! Sad

    • Cat Trombley says:

      Juan, are you in an appeals status if waiting since 2000? SSI is usually easier to get — all you need to show is that you have a current disability, with VA you have to provide evidence that shows the current disability is due to service.

      • Juan says:

        I’m on appeal status since 2007 back to RO on 2008 then back to Appeal on june 2012, my claim it was a claim since 2000, I give up, at least SSA approved my disability in ten months, I didn’t have to go back and forth, like I said before I’m just disappointed with the VA, all my illness and injuries are Service Connected.

        • dave Sherman says:

          Juan,
          Does that also include Presumptive Illness clause that was passed in 2011 stating you have to be Undiagnosed 6 months before your condition starts to 3 months currently active. Like in my case that goes back to when I was still in service. I got out in Mar 1992. My illnesss started in Apr or May 92. Been on meds since then. The question then would be are they going to back pay the whole thing or just till when I 1st filed my initial claim that they denied.

          • Jim says:

            the presumptive law was first passed in 1998 and then added things like fibromyalgia, CFS and IBS in 2001.

            If you have something that is a diagnosed illness like GERD, or DDD/DJD you cannot file under 3.317; but anything that started in the service of the first your after may be granted SC, the main thing on some of the issues is one still getting medical care from time to time.

    • Paul Barger says:

      I am with you Juan, I had to apply for SS and was approved in about 1 1/2 months, very quick but the VA claims take forever. Good luck and keep your head up

  7. Jack Burks says:

    My claim was submitted on 2/17/2011, don’t you people think thats long enough?

    • Dave Sherman says:

      I filed my 3rd claim including all disablities in Nov 2010. It finally made it to the Preparation for Rating stage in Dec 2012. No clue how long it will take now.

    • Jim says:

      I was given a medical after Desert Storm and filed the first day I could. It took the VA 2 years back in those days too and mine should not have been so hard for a big part of it. They only gave me a small part after my congressman called the RO. It was not an aid but the man him self. My appeal lasted 3 years and I was given 100%. None for this gulf war thing that just passed. those things was dropped.

      So the system is just as bad now as always.

  8. Cornell Wilson says:

    I got out April 12, 2012 and all I am trying to get compensation reenstated. I go to e-befits and this is what they said: Claim Received: 03/12/2012
    Claim Type: Eligibility Determination
    Estimated Claim Completion Date: At this time, your Regional Office is unable to provide an estimated completion date for this type of claim. Can some one help?

  9. Rob says:

    Hi, not to get into a pissing contest about claims, but 2 things:

    1. Ebenefit’s is and will be a great tool if the Regional Offices update it correctly!

    2. The DBQ is a VA form so why are the VAMC doctors hestiant or unwilling to use the form??? Then why do we have it?

    • Cat Trombley says:

      Hi Rob,

      eBenefits is a great tool and is constantly updated. As more regional office come on to our digital processing system, eBenefits will improve because when claims move through that system, it automatically updates your ebenefits account. We built most of the pieces, now we are connecting them. This should be the case by end of year.

      I dont want to speak on behalf of the Veterans Health Administration, but my understanding is that the docs are encouraged to use them — but its not mandatory because you cant force a doctor to provide evidence, private or public. Think of it this way, if your doctor provided evidence that negatively impacted your claim, how would that affect your relationship with him or her? If that happened to me, it would certainly affect the relationship I have with my VA doc. I would ask your doc why he or she is unwilling, and if you think their position is unreasonable, talk to your patient advocate.

      • Frank Simon says:

        I utilize ebenefits all the time and there has been no update to my dependency claim for 18 months now! It is still sitting in the review stage. So what you are saying is not accurate. I provided the regional office in Muskogee with the required documents for my dependency claim and they have gone well past the date of completion. I also phoned the 1800 number as was told by one of the VA reps that my claim had gone well beyond the average number of days that it takes the VA Regional Office to process a claim. I was also told by that same rep that she was going to put in an inquiry to Muskogee and have them email me about the status of my claim and I have yet to receive that. I find your statement to be so appalling given the fact that I am actually married and have provided all required documents and yet my claim still remains in limbo and has been for almost 20 months now.! Please help….

    • Bob Blair says:

      E benefits is rather unfair to the rural vets…..have to have level 2 clearance to get access and have to drive 300 miles to a Regional Office to get personal verification for the level 2 approval…………… Now with 2 previous administrative denials it’s been over seven years.

      • Rob says:

        Bob, hey I understand your frustration! Cat, well not being negative, but I have asked the VA doc’s from either my PCP or to specialized docs to either fill out the form or ask them why not?? Their reply “is that either that they just don’t fill it out for anybody, or they do not have time for it! Well Cat, as far as the Patient Advocate goes…………..my wife cannot even get one to call back so how will they help on a simple form???

  10. Geraldine Kohn says:

    In August we applied for survivor benefits for my mom. My mom is 88 years old, needs a caregiver to help with taking care of her. I have to work there is no ifs, and or buts about it. However, it is eating up her social security check, along with medical bills and prescriptions. I am going into my pay to help pay for her care. I will not place her in a home as she get better care at home and nursing homes are more expensive than home health care. By the time we hear she may not need it anymore.

  11. Ralph McKinney says:

    Dear Under Secretary,
    I need you to contact me personally, because my claims are over 130 months (13 years), this is malice in Jackson, Ms, VARO. VET CLM# ***, **. Thanking you in advance.

  12. Scott wood says:

    I congratulate you on your efforts to streamline a heavily burden compensation/disability system currently in place, I waited for 3 years before finally receiving my just compensation that required letters to my congressman, letters to Thomas J Murphy in Washington D.C. and dozens of phone calls and emails to the regional office before I received my 100% disability for my service connected disability.
    I know that several of my comrades, and fellow veterans still await they’re due diligence on their cases that remain 2+years old..
    I applaud you on your efforts and Hope that a positive change is forthcoming.

    • Cat Trombley says:

      Thanks, Scott. Your right, it is unacceptable that you waited that long, and that your service buddies are doing the same. We have tested our initiatives and are convinced it will eliminate the backlog in 2015. That may be too late for you and your buddies, but if they come back to add conditions or to get an increase, the backlog will be a thing of the past.

      • Jack Driggers says:

        While I applaud the efforts that are said to be made to streamline the system I hear more and more how incompatibilities between computer programs are making it tougher.

        If they can create a program to order a robot to move on Mars why can’t they create a program that makes two incompatible programs communicate?

        I do know the VA is trying and they have a difficult job. I understand that you are still paying survivor benefits to some Civil War veteran’s widows. What I can’t understand is that you keep saying that there was no idea that the war would last this long. Really? With the politicians saying troops were going to be there until such a date? What do you think our troops were going to be doing? They sure aren’t playing spades over there.

        I’ve been enrolled in the VA system for about five years now. I retired from the service 13 years ago and for 8 years I kept putting it off. I couldn’t see putting myself in front of kids coming back from SWA. I finally did but all I hear every year is we are trying to get the backlog fixed. You know you will never get it down to where it should be so why keep promising that which you cannot deliver?

        I’m suffering from symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome and PTSD. I took the test for symptoms and I have all but one but I am still not being seen for PTSD, I see psychologists and psychiatrists twice a year. Surely not enough to do any good. I took a battery of memory tests last July and still do not know the official results. I had an MRI of my brain done a few months ago and still don’t know those results.

        It’s getting harder and harder for me to concentrate and being back in school it makes it doubly so.

        Just deliver on what you say okay? I’m putting it down in my journal. 2015 right? Keep the faith.3

  13. So the average is 273 days and improvements are being put in place by 2015…. that’s odd; my claim is about to hit 17 months and still nothing. Doesn’t sound very hopeful!

    • BM1(Ret) Jamie Robinson says:

      I am with you SSG, the 273 day average is a gross understatement. I have had an appeal submitted for what the VA admits was “clear and unmistakeable error” for over 18 months now. I had a knee replacement at age 38 (Patellofemoral Arthroplasty) and they rated me for Patellofemoral Arthritis. eBenefits shows that I am still in Phase 1 (appeal submitted). When calling the VA I am told that my appeal is in the hands of the Decision Review Officer. This is where it has been since August of 2012. I have all but given up hope.

      • Catherine Trombley says:

        Hi Jamie,

        Just to clarify, our average days to complete number is for claims, not appeals. This number refers to claims that have not yet received an initial decision from VA. I used to work as a VSO at the Board of Veterans appeals, in my experiences, CUE claims are very complex. That does not excuse the time you are waiting — its clearly unacceptable — but we are looking at ways to make our appeals system more efficient, so stay tuned and good luck with your appeal.

        • BM1(Ret) Jamie Robinson says:

          Thanks Catherine. I need all the luck I can get! It seems like it would be an easy fix, doesn’t it?

    • David Mayse says:

      My wife had back surgery (4) years ago and then had her neck fused on July of 2011. She put in a claim on Aug 11 2011. So it is about to hit (20) months approx
      600 or more days. So she should be at home with 100%, since she had to move, at work from a job as a nurse, on the ward, to a clinic, because she could not lift patients of do any lifting more that 10 lbs. Everybody’s claim is important, but why are claims not put in priorities, other than day value, as I guess no one checks the claim till they are about to process it. She got, 100% for one month in Dec, 2011. So did that cause here to restart. I saw that she was getting notification about 3 months ago, as the claim status when from gathering info to claim processed, and notification pending, then went back to gathering info, as evidence was received. My wife did not send evidence, so it had to come from va or the doctor. Why would that back up the claim. She served her 26 years and is due her claim award. How can we help her complete this process

  14. Andrew Hayslip says:

    273 days huh? Ease tell me then why it’s been almost 2 years and change for my claim? I haven’t even relieved any correspondence or mail in regards to my claim! The only time I get any sort of answer is when I call the VA, wait a week for a call back, and only get answers that get parroted back over and over! How about answering these issues…how about the people you let fall through the cracks. Who helps us when you fail?

    • Cat Trombley says:

      Just a reminder, if you are currently in the backlog and are older than 75, in danger of becoming homeless or terminally ill, contact your regional office and make sure they are aware of your circumstance. VA expedites claims for Veterans and survivors who fall into these categories (as well as MOH recipients and former POWs).

      • Troy Allen says:

        Hmm, Homeless, in Challenge we were told that in one of our instructors RO’s The Homeless- VSR, doesn’t want to work them and has the ” normal” VSR process the claim. I’d say get a reality check. After 8 week of training Im not impressed with the Challenge Class at All. PTSD? Ha! we were working them in our Challend Pre-development class. Yeah I get a little delusional after reading this. BTW Thank you for what you do for our VETS.

      • Michelle says:

        Yes, I utilized this process in October 2012. It is now April and I am still waiting. Calls to the homeless vet outreach coordinator is a joke at best as it can take her up to 2 weeks to contact you, if she does at all. She told me one thing and Patty Murrays office (our senator) was told something very different. I bring this up to her and she says Patty Murray’s office gets the information from her. It is sad when I trust what the Senators office tells me over a VA employee who is supposed to be on my side.

        So the advice I got if my home is foreclosed on while I wait is to go live in a shelter. I have a dog and shelters won’t take us both. And how sad that someone who served their country can become homeless after being a professional and a soldier because they can’t work due to their service connected disability. And when I requested a specialized C&P exam in writing, they got me an exam (after 6 months of my claim being expedited that was orginally filed 8/2011) for the other conditions, but NOT the one I requested because the Senators office said they are going to deny my Fibro claim as it isn’t in my medical records from the military. Well, they don’t have my medical records from the military, only my VA records and I told them when I got out of the Army I had been diagnosed with RSD. I sent peer reviewed medical journals discussing how FMS fits under RSD/CPRS and if they deny that without giving me an exam then I have to wait how long on appeal? Oh wait I will be on the streets by then with no address, so who gives a crap, right? Just another soldier who willingly served their country getting treated worse than someone who has never worked a legal job and is treated better in jail and prison than someone who has worked hard and served their country, no questions asked.
        So this initiative doesn’t mean a thing if the VA is going to continue to ignore vets and be dishonest with them. That is endemic of the VA claims system with vets never being able to communicate with them and when you do, you are ignored without recourse.

        Michelle

        • Michelle says:

          PS: FMS wasn’t a term used very often in 1992 either so that is another BS way of the VA getting out of caring for Gulf War and era vets

      • Ms. Gray says:

        Really Homeless
        Well I’ve been homeless for over a year and the VA knows about it,(AT LEAST THEY SAY THEY DO). My claim has not budged since May 2011. So putting homeless in a category does not help at all I’m still waiting.

  15. Bradley II. George D says:

    Thanks for everything that is offerd by the VA. Sometime I feel like I dont desrve what i have been given. Thanks again for everything you say I have earned!

    • Catherine Trombley says:

      Bradley,

      Thanks for the support. I assure you, you most definitely deserve the benefits you have received. You earned them with your service to our great country.

    • Nick Swan says:

      VETERANS FOR FAIR COMPENSATION

      YOU SENT OUR TROOPS TO FIGHT, YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF OUR TROOPS WHEN THEY RETURN,,,,,,,,,,, NO MATTER THE COST.
      The amount of compensation being paid to our disabled Vets is far less then what should be paid. Many give lip service, few take action.
      100% Disabled gets paid 100% of the allocated disability funds.
      90% Disabled get paid 61.5% of the allocated disability funds.
      Shouldn’t 10% Disability be = to 10% of the allocated disability funds?
      Veteran w/ Spouse where 100% compensation is = To $ 2973.00 in 2013
      Amt to be Paid Amt Paid Difference % of 100
      100% $2973.00 $2973.00 $ .00 0
      90% $2675.70 $1830.00 $ 845.70 61.5 %
      70% $2081.10 $1402.00 $ 679.10 47.1 %
      50% $1486.50 $ 888.00 $ 598.50 29.8 %
      10% ‘ $ 297.30 $ 129.00 $ 168.30 4.3 %
      There are more then 3.5 million Veterans receiving some form of disability in 2013. Of those, only 9% are 100% Disabled Short Term & 8% are TDIU (TOTAL DISABILITY BASED ON INDIVIDUAL UNEMPLOYABILITY) that means that over 50% of the allocated Disability funds go unpaid. There is a 38.5 percent difference in payment between 90% disabled and 100% disabled. Can someone explain what difference there is between someone with 90% disability and someone with 100% disability, except in paid compensation? To date, there are No Veterans Organizations, News Media, Senators or Congress persons willing to review and respond to this concern with true interest. WILL YOU?
      US SENDS BILLIONS TO SUPPORT FOREIGN INTEREST EACH YEAR.

      PLEASE SEND THIS TO EVERY VETERAN YOU KNOW!

  16. Fred says:

    I am a Vietnam veteran who filed my claim in Oct of 2010 and recieved a 100% ratting in 17 1/2 months. I have veteran friends who filed thier claims years before me and are still awaiting a ratting of some kind. I have been told that the Iraq and Afgan vets claims have been put ahead of the Vietnam vets, this I do not understand as we had to wait and fight for benefits for year to begin with. I am happy to hear that the VA is taking steps but feel these steps should have been made years ago. Learn from the past and plan ahead.

    • Catherine Trombley says:

      Hi Fred,

      Last year when we added new presumptive conditions for Agent Orange, we added 260K claims to the inventory and by law, we had to give those claims priority. Although adding those presumptions was absolutely the right thing to do for a generation of Veterans who did not receive the welcome home my generation of warrior did, 37 percent of our workforce was pointed towards that effort, so to answer your question, Vietnam Vets have been a priority for us as well. thanks for your support. I assure you we are learning from the past and pressing ahead as fast as possible.

      • Manuel Sortillon says:

        It would be comforting to know that 37 percent (I’m guessing this is a random number put out there to make us feel good) of your workforce has been geared to taking care of us Vietnam Veterans if it was true. I have been dealing with multiple issues associated with exposure to Agent Orange and now stand at 26 months since I filed. It seems once you work for the VA and have passed your probationary period the work Ethic goes out the window. What good will paperless do when the same people are still holding up the process? The only way the backlog at the VA will improve is through attrition which means it’s because us Vietnam Veterans are dying off. We were not aknowledged when we came home and so it continues.

      • Ok , How come no one has jumped on board for the thousands of us Korean veterans AND the constraints put upon us for presumptive exposure. What about the SUPPORT UNITS– time frame April 1968 through August 1971. It is always about Viet Nam and Now the Middle EAST. Such a Shame that we are as forgotten as was our service during that time….

        • melvin wells says:

          Wife and daughter was not included in my healthcare,I’ve been trying to get help from va, we were around when they sprayed for mosquitoes and overtaking foliage in hwachon korea, I was turned down in 3weeks, how in God’s world did they find that out without asking me where I was during the spray that was fast, I think thayer waiting for me to die, also I have a mentally challenged daughter 40years old, now tell me we weren’t exposed,I don’t want to but I guess I’ll get a lawyer,,they tell me they would take the case with pleasure

  17. George says:

    I submitted my claim on 5/09 and Houston denied it on 8/10. Appealed it to BVA and won at BVA 4/12 but thought percentages should be higher and judge granted that it be expedited and also be expedited at Houston when it went back. Been at Houston since 5/12 and had to do comp and pen exams in 8/12 and the reports say I should have been rated higher. Been waiting to rate since 8/12. Keep getting run around from VA and they avoid answering questions. Requested DRO or appeal manager contact me for over 6 months now and no contact. Ebenefits and 1-800 number don’t know jack. It had a suspense date to be rated by Feb 14, 2013. Still nothing.

    • George says:

      Also, this is the 2nd suspense date that it was suppose to be rated. The first suspense date I believe was by Oct 30, 2012.

  18. Rebecca Selby says:

    Ma’am- Is the 2015 goal with the number of claims you currently have in the system or will you keep that goal with all new claims coming in? The VA seemed to be taken by surprise that they would have more disability claims come to then when we began OIF/OEF. Now that the Iraq War has drawn down you have seen its surge of claims and we all know in a couple years you will see the surge of claims from the Afghanistan War. I just want to ensure that the VA is already preparing for this influx with new hires, etc. I know my disability claim will take years (1.5 and counting), but there is still time to ensure this will not happen to another group of Wounded Warriors.

    • Catherine Trombley says:

      Great question! We are accounting for the influx from DoD, especially now that all service members are going through TAP, which includes a VA benefits briefing. In 2015, we will have no claim pending longer than 125 days.

  19. Jerry Schalski says:

    I have been waiting since 2005 for my benefits claim to be processed. I currently have an appeal file waiting on a decision by the Judge in D.C.. I have written many letters and made numerous phone calls. No response from the letters and I am told that when I call that the Judge has not picked up my file as yet.

    No one can tell me what the hold up is or as to why or even if the Judge knows that my file is waiting on him to act.

    • Catherine Trombley says:

      Hi Jerry,

      Appealing is a multi-year process. I can’t speak for the Board of Veterans Appeals since they are not part of the Veterans Benefits Administration, but when I worked there veterans had some luck with the ombudsman (https://iris.custhelp.com/app/ask/session/L3RpbWUvMTMzNTM1NTAyOC9zaWQvdmE2Q0R3V2s%3D) make sure you select Appeal in DC. Also, remember the Board will advance claims on the docket if you are expirecencing financial hardship, terminally ill or at risk of homelessness. If you work with a VSO, you can ask their office at the Board to facilitate that process, should you need it.

      • Derek Davey says:

        The Board is not part of the VBA? Are you confusing the BVA with the Court?

        • Catherine Trombley says:

          Derek,

          No, The Board of Veterans Appeals is not part of the Veterans Benefits Administration. However, both entities are a part of VA. When you appeal, the Board is separate so that its decisions are binding on VBA. The Courts are not part of VA at all. Hope that clarifies.

  20. I am a Gulf War veteran suffering from GWI and this has been a very long battle with the VA trying to get my claims settled. It has taken me YEARS just to get at 60 % disability. Right now my Congressman is helping, but with the large amount of active duty medical records showing proof, it should have never escalated that high up. My last C&P evaluation was rejected informing they could not establish an “service connection”. I was so furious I demanded they send me all copies of any documentation they had. Right now I have 3 each, 3 inch binders full of paperwork and just within a 5 minute scan over of the documents I found plenty of evidence, which even a 5th grader would have not missed. All the VA is doing is engaging in delay tactics, hoping the vet will either die off or give up. I have heard it several times from vets saying “I cannot do this anymore, I do not have the will to fight on”. Please take a look at my public log https://plus.google.com/110321549524619427432/posts In there you will see several active duty medical records showing many of the problems I started complaining about over 20 years ago while on active duty. You will also see a list of all my health problems. Have I thought I would be better off dead than alive? Yes, however I refuse to go down like that and vow to fight to the end. My biggest fear is that these VA people will get nothing more than a slap on the wrist, they will walk away thinking “Got you again suckers” and a few months down the road it will be back to business as usual. Why can we not get at least 1 Gulf War vet on the VA panel? I really wish I could thank Mr Anthony Hardie & Dr Steven S. Coughlin for exposing the arrogance & incompetence by some in the VA. I do not have a problem with the caregivers, as they have been excellent. I cannot praise the caregivers enough. My problem is with the people performing the evaluation and deliberately blocking claims.
    PS You can also find my page very easily via Google search “Glenn Stewart Gulf War syndrome”.

  21. Homer Yates says:

    BULLSHIT, my claim is 682 days. The VA has ally records and is just
    Hoping I will die so this claim will go away. I was rated back in 11-2012
    And they can’t get this heart claim done.

  22. R.J. FLYNN says:

    One thing the VA can do, is not to relook every previous rating when a new claim is submitted and is not related to previous ratings! Not only does this add time to the processing, but it also adds unnecessary costs.

  23. Randy Metcalf says:

    My claim is dated October 14, 2010. I think both of the claims have been waiting far to long. I was told last week that they were working on Claims DATED September 2010 and my claim was going to be assigned to a claim processor very soon. I asked them if it would be finished by this Christmas. The VA response was , my claim should be started by that time.
    I pray that it will be finished before Christmas of 2014.

  24. terry putnam says:

    everything i hear now is great news. finally, it is alot easier to apply and check on the status of your claim. be patient, i am a vietnam vet, i started my claim in 2010. believe me it is 100% easier now. i am using the fast track for agent orange, the sooner you have ALL the information they need, the sooner you send it in, the sooner they will be able to process your claim.

    • Catherine Trombley says:

      Terry,

      You make a great point. The vast majority of processing time is spent waiting for evidence. Often, its evidence that is easier for the Veteran to get than VA — like private medical records. If we ask and don’t receive, we have to ask again and give you and the doc time to submit it. The best thing you can do to get your claim through quickly is send any evidence you can when submitting your claim — the Fully Developed Claim process.

      • Jack Driggers says:

        I requested some information from my records from St Louis. They responded back that they had not as yet received those records from the USAF. I retired in June of 2000. It takes longer than 13 years to move records? No wonder the VA is so.

  25. JOHN MARKIEWICZ says:

    You are very optimistic and that is good, you are also very wrong and that is not so good. The average time needs to be looked at by regions not overall. I am sure that a claim processed in North Dakota rockets right through the system while a claim submitted in Florida takes a year or more. Denials are still be given on claims that everyone knows will ultimately be overturned on appeal. It is now taking over four months (and counting) just to generate and send out a Decision Letter once the decision is made after two years of waiting (also in Florida). The average processing time nationwide is getting longer and the average error rate is getting higher. Progress is documented by showing improvement not by taking longer and making more mistakes. You folks are going in the wrong direction but still think we Veterans are too stupid to realize and understand that the backlog issue is still broken, is not being resolved and is only going to get worse.

    • Catherine Trombley says:

      Hi John,

      Actually, least year (fiscal year 12) only 1.2 percent of claims appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals were overturned. Our accuracy rate has gone up 4 percentage points over the last year. We continue receive increasing number of claims, but in the last four years, our employees — a vast majority of whom are Veterans or closely related to veterans — have completed more than a million claims each year.

      • Pete DePalma says:

        Lets take a look at the percentage of Appeals that are won by Veterans. It has been estimated to be over 90%, what does that say about the job being performed by your Rating Percentages? If they were doing their jobs properly then perhaps it wouldnt take years to process an Appeal because there would be 90% less!

        In my own claim I received a 13 page letter from my Regional Office asking for additional documentation. In that same letter it stated that they had requested, and received, a copy of my Medical Records from my VA Hospital.

        I found it unusual that they would be asking for the amount of documentation that they were from me seeing as everything was well documented within my Medical File.

        I proceeded to go to my VA Hospitals Release of Information Office to inquire about whether or not the Muskogee Regional Office had requested a copy of my Medical Records. I was given a Signed and stamped Letter that clearly stated that Muskogee, or any other Regional Office for that matter, had NEVER requested or had been sent a Copy of my Medical Records!

        I have to believe that I am not the only Veteran falling victim to this. It is beyond my comprehension why a VA Staff member would feel the need to blatantly falsify my Claim file in order to make their own job easier thereby hurting my ability to receive a well deserved increase on my compensation & Pension.

        I would love to hear your explanation for this!

      • Bill says:

        It isn’t completed if it’s wrong. 1.2 percent of bad decisions overturned? that’s not impressive, it’s shameful.

  26. Pete DePalma says:

    How come the VA don’t post news about how they are constantly lying to the Senate Oversight Committee? Didn’t the head of the Senate Oversight Committee just threaten to block your funding because of the VA’s legacy of incessant dishonesty?

    If you want suggestions about how to fix the problem…FIRE THE ENTIRE VA ADMINISTRATION…and then hire people who ACTUALLY care about Veterans and show it thru ACTIONS rather than continuing to Employ people who only have their job for the sake of a paycheck and do nothing but spout EMPTY WORDS!

    Yes my words seem sharp but like many other Vets, I am sick of being lied to by an Organization built on lies and deceit. I figure this post will probably be deleted because the last thing you want people to know is the TRUTH!

  27. Pete DePalma says:

    273 Days? Where did you get that number? That is total Hogwash! My claim for an increase has been in since June and the projected completion date isnt until Sept 2013. For those of you that can add…that is more than TWICE the claimed 273 days!

    Looking down the list of posters on this blog, I cant find even 1 Veterans who has had their claim processed within 273 days.

    When is the VA going to quit lying to Veterans? Do you REALLY think we are so stupid that we will fall for your fabricated propaganda? Even the Senate Oversight Committee has gotten sick of your deception and threatened to block your funding.

  28. Ziggy says:

    Dear Under Secretary for Benefits Hickey,

    Glad you think eBenefits is a great tool. I like that I can print up an eligibility Memo for my Educational Benefits.

    I also like that I can use it to illustrate why we aren’t buying the story about how things are getting better WRT Disability Compensation:

    FROM eBenefits…
    Claim Received: 04/18/2011
    Claim Type: Compensation
    Estimated Claim Completion Date: 05/10/2013 to 01/30/2014

    Help me understand how on earth you can sleep at night claiming “average days-to-complete a claim currently sits at 273 days” when your own machine is estimating somewhere between 753 days to 1,018 days?
    ( I won’t even address the fact that last year it said estimated completion date was June 2012).

    As of today: My initial claim for disability is sitting at 700+ days (File date of 4/18/2011 …with absolutely no end in sight).
    – Estimated Completion Date that eBenefits showed last year (June 2012) has now slipped by more than 18 months to “1/30/2014″. To be honest, I don’t see that as a positive trend, nor that we are getting better.

    My VARO has had everything, in hand, that they needed/asked for to decide the claim for more than a year.

    — I believe this because last April eBenfits was updated showing receipt of the items.

    — What I don’t know is if my file still exists since it hasn’t changed, and has gone seemingly untouched since April 2012.

    **********

    I spent 32 years telling my folks to bring me “solutions” as well as the “problems”, so here are my suggestions:

    1) Assign a case officer (by Name) so we know to whom we should address our concerns
    — Makes us believe there is any hope that a human being is eventually going to take interest in our claims.
    — Makes SOMEONE responsible… (Yes, I know that claims probably move from person to person. That’s okay, UPDATE the name in eBenefits)

    2) Assign us a simple “you are number XXXX of XXXX” in EBenefits.
    — Yes, I know that it might be a tad daunting realizing that we are behind XXX other claims, but in theory, we’d be able to see some sort of progress.

    Lastly, Who IS the human to whom we are supposed to address our concerns?
    — When I’ve called the Call Center, I’ve gotten back ‘form letters’ explaining how much better things have gotten—doesn’t ring true at this end.

  29. WAYNE says:

    I THINK THE PROCESS IS TERRIBLE. MANY VETERANS WILL DIE BEFORE THEIR CLAIMS ARE ADDRESSED. THIS IS A SHAME AND I, FOR ONE, REFUSE TO JUST STAND BY AND DO NOTHING! I AM SICK AND TIRED OF ALL THE DELAY TACTICS BY THE VA AND BEING GIVEN THAT USELESS 1 800 NUMBER! ALL THEY DO IS TELL YOU IT WILL TAKE FOREVER TO GET TO THE BACKLOG OF CLAIMS. HIRE MORE PEOPLE, DO WHATEVER IT TAKES, BUT STOP TREATING VETERANS THIS WAY. IT IS SHAMEFUL AND WRONG. THE LAST TIME I CALLED THAT USELESS 1 800 NUMBER I WAS TOLD IT WOULD TAKE 540 DAYS ON AVERAGE (AND, OF COURSE, IT COULD TAKE LONGER) JUST TO GET TO OUR CLAIM. MY SPOUSE IS BASICALLY UNEMPLOYABLE AT THIS POINT AND ALL WE HEAR ARE EXCUSES AND DELAY TACTICS. SHAME ON THE VA! IS THIS HOW YOU SAY THANK YOU TO THE BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE SERVED THEIR COUNTRY?

  30. 3,136 days or 448 weeks and still wating for va,to do right.

  31. Joseph Simpson says:

    My claim was filed in May 2004 I have a BVA Remand dated March 2009 that was ordered expedited due to significant violations of Due Process of Law. i also have a federal Appeals Court Judges ruling in my favor for disability Retirement due to my service connected disability. The VA lied to my Congressional representative about the BVA Remand but I proved the lie, needless to say she was not too happy with this or the Regional Offices disregard for her office. It has been months and we are still waiting for the Regional office manager to do something. My doctors are all VA and concur I have four Pension and Comp doctors reports some where they have sent me for the wrong things and one where they claimed the Pension and comp doctor used my words, it is called a patient profile or maybe the claims worker did not know that. My heath issues are Very rare and everyone believes they are just sending my claim from one place to another since no one wants to deal with it despite all the medical evidence in my favor. People who have reviewed this claim have sad that this claim should have been approved a long time ago that the VA has no legal or medical bases for denial. Even the BVA judge had issues with the handling of this claim and what I and my family have been put through by the VA and VA employees over the years, Not Months. I am dealing with Philadelphia Regional Office and there have been OIG Report after report on the violations, but nothing is done and no one is held accountable, they continue to change managers, give them a bonus and send them to Washington. I even questioned this on one regional manager who was totally inept and had clearly violated the law and veterans rights with in the system. Vets are suffering due to the violations that is clear and like myself cannot wait for the VA to make corrections that never come, we are at our last shred of hope and may lose everything due to the VA and VA employees and Officials. How can anyone who knows the facts on the suffering, suicide rate and homelessness of veterans live with themselves knowing the truth and then continue to attempt to feed the American Public with lies.

  32. Greg L. says:

    This is a travesty of justice and must end now. It reminds me of pictures, of war veterans who set up tent cities close to the White house, from past wars due to failure of timely payments. These brave solders did their part and it is time to end backlogs now! Backlogs need to be reduced to six months or less within six months or less. Those with P.T.S.D. need to be seen immediately once they reach out for help.

    • Catherine Trombley says:

      Greg,
      When Veterans get out of the military, they are automatically entitled to healthcare through VA. Any Veteran who suffers from PTSD can get treatment at VA, regardless of service connection. We know the wait for claims is long, and that its unacceptable, but waiting on a claim does not preclude Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans from healthcare.

  33. Juan says:

    I’m disable by the SSA and they have the medical records, now VA requesting those records from SSA, why VA saying that they can take months to have the records? I tought they can share records to each department, can anyone explain that to Me?

    • Joseph Simpson says:

      The VA will lose records and I have been advised that this is also illegal since they are government documents. They tell you not to send duplicate copies, but then you may find they do not have the record at all even after it was sent. I have learned the hard way that the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot be trusted send EVERYTHING CERTIFIED MAIL with RETURN RECEIPT REQUIRED or HAND DELIVER DOCUMENTS and get a SIGNED RECEIPT. This is how I proved things as well as blatent lies by the VA Regioal Office to the BVA Judge and my Congressional Representative. No matter what the VA Officials / Employees say on here they cannot be trusted by any means. look at Every Veterans site and you will see the evidence of how vets are suffering due to the VA and every VA Employee is trained to “sugar coat” everything that is going on at the VA. Believe Me things are bad at the VA and the worst of it is not even on these web sites since countless vets have lost everything they own as a direct result of VA Negligence so they are not able to post their stories anymore. Talk to vets you meet or their families, so many give up due to the BS by VA Employees. I recently talked to an attorney about my financial problems due to the fact my VA doctors have documented I cannot work due to my service connected disabilities, he finally realized what his own brother was going through dealing with the VA. The brother committed suicide a few years ago when he lost everything due to a VA claim and appeals that never came and the way the VA treated him. Another thing the attorney could not believe the way the VA disregards the law and the basic rights every American has and that veterans fought for, and the VA gets away with it with No Accountability. Things are changing, the American people and some within the media are starting to question things the VA has said and done over the years and the lies will come out. But we as veterans need to get the information out there, the truth and not what the VA claims they are doing and how things will change in a ” Few Years”. it is nothing new, they claim this with every VA Secretary and a new date for change that never comes. Until there is a Public and Veteran Out Rage for full Accountability and maybe a few jail sentences for VA Officials, nothing will change except the date the VA gives for the change.

  34. Steve says:

    Yes–I have been fighting since 2010—-it all sounds good in Washington and in blogs, but someone needs to get the words to regional offices to quick delaying/denying all claims, not just us VietNam vets—at the rate we are dying off, the VA can spend our compensation on managers and send them on so “fact finding” tours which dosent help us at all.

  35. Lambda5555m says:

    Hmmm,

    I think there might just be a problem here. The joint system with the Army and the VA will just allow them to both agree to a lower disability evaluation and you can’t go back to one or the other with a different rating, so how is that supposed to work? It didn’t when I went through the process and got two different ratings that were both wrong. I should have gotten a disability retirement off of active duty, but since they cost too much and I was “Just a Reservist” they were not given to people like me who were not active duty. Typical, huh? Yup, it sure is. I have submitted all the necessary documentation to the Army, yet they just didn’t want to pay for the disability retirements and the VA doesn’t want to pay for the benefits you are entitled to, which is shameful, just shameful. I have been fighting for the proper, accurate, and true disability rating since I got off of active duty in 2005 and even though my Desert Storm service connected disability got aggravated by my service in Afghanistan, the Army told me that since I got VA disability, I was already being compensated for this medical condition and it shouldn’t be given any determination by the MEB/PEB I went though. Well, he got his request granted, even though it was an active duty injury that was aggravated from my active duty service, that didn’t matter, they just decided I was already compensated. I actually have an original document that an Army Major sent to another Medical Officer and I know it went off to the MEB/PEB, when the Major was flat wrong. The disability rating systems were different and just because I am compensated by the VA doesn’t mean when on active duty I have to endure crippling injuries that I can do nothing about and the MEB/PEB just completely ignore? That guy was an idiot, but I am the one paying the price. I appealed it and never heard back from the Army, so I still consider it open and maybe they might do the right thing. They lowballed everyone’s disability rating off of active duty, especially if you were a Reservist, and since they gave me a 10% disability rating when I should have been at 100% for what serious medical conditions/problems I have and they continue to get worse. The VA turns around and lowers my 40% to 10% because the Army did, even though they were supposed to be 2 separate systems, so now you know why I said they can more easily rip you off when the systems are combined. I had to write to the VA Director to get it fixed and it was definitely an error the VA finally admitted and reinstated the original 40%…

  36. Lambda5555m says:

    Continued – Even though it has gotten worse since 1991, it remains at 40% even though it has gotten much worse, but maybe if the VA personnel who reviewed our records and determined our disability, were actually medically trained and knew what they were doing, then maybe we might get rid of the backlog. Yeah, the computer system doesn’t work, but I could help design a simple one that would easily do the trick and get things moving. I have done it a couple of times before and it ain’t that hard. I don’t need to be a “rocket surgeon” in order to come up with one that works. I have already done it and it is used in the National Emergency Management Information System, so it must work, right? Yeah, it works. Maybe if they asked people like me to help them do it or had 100% Disabled Veterans like me that were forced to take a disability retirement from our civilian job, they could get a lot of good information and maybe even help the VA personnel better understand the medical problems and the situations that led to them, so they just won’t deny, deny, and deny again, which should be the new VA motto, cause I will probably be dead before it is all figured out by the VA. I understand it, but since I am an idiot and can understand it and know what my rating should be after reading my medical records, I can’t have those particular ratings because it actually would reflect what serious problems I have. That’s the reverse double secret probation thinking by the VA we all are subject to and have to live with. Come live with me for a week and I will show you how these disabilities impact my life and will no doubt kill me since the COPD I got in Afghanistan will do that sooner rather than later. I hope I have not made too much sense in what I said as if the VA understands it, maybe things might actually get done? Nah, too much to wish for. Shameful, just shameful.

  37. Louis says:

    I received my rating almost a year after I applied which after reading these posts I am grateful for. My question is this. When I filled out my original paperwork I submitted forms for my dependent status (Wife and 2 Sons). When I received my 1st compensation payment it was for single rate only. I went to my local VA office, they filled out the paperwork and submitted it, 8 months later I’m still getting paid the veteran only rate, why does it take so long just to confirm dependency status, it’s so damn simple?

  38. Phil says:

    our average days-to-complete a claim currently sits at 273 days. is unacceptable
    SHOW THIS REPORT FOR EVERY OFFICE THAT PROCESSES CLAIMS!!!
    GET MONTLY REPORTS FROM EVERY OFFICE AND EVERY RATER
    CLAIMS SUBMITTED #DAYS COMPLETED OPEN CLAIMS
    2012 XXXX XXX XXXX
    2011 XXXX XXXX XXXX
    2010 XXXX XXXX XXXX
    2009 XXXX XXXX XXXX

  39. Phil says:

    Give a Rater a trainee that will use email or a phone to interact with the vet to resolve the problem with the claim. If it is something obvious. They checked the wrong box. They used the wrong word, laymen instead of a diagnosis term. They used the wrong form. They are missing a page or date or signature. It will save months or years!

  40. Kimberly Johnson says:

    I filed my claim in September 2010 and get the same pathetic “cookie cutter” responses that my claim in in the “review” process but yet they have all the documentation they need. E-benefits is NEVER up to date. I had to send documents and medical records several times of course. My claim was in the black hole of the Oakland, CA regional office, and finally asked for the VFW to take it over since I figured they are advocates for us. However, everytime I call the man fumbles and comes up with some sad excuse that its with a “coach” and he is trying to get an estimated completion date. I’ve written the President, my congressman, and I dont know who else I need to contact to get my claim settled. They did not hesitate to send me to the Gulf War or give me untested innoculations, but after serving my country as a very proud woman Marine, the VA and the government continue to take their time with what should not be so complicated. Like a previous writer said, hire some more employees, preferably veterans who actually care and recognize what we went through and what it means to serve this country and then pay the price mentally and physically with no compensation for our injuries. To many excuses, not enough action. The process should be similiar across the board, regardless of how many complaints you submit on your complain. Now as I Clinical Psychologist I can’t tell you how many patients I see with PTSD and various other mental and physical illnesses that they have not received any assistance from the VA. I am one of those patients !!! Its truly a damn shame.

    • Leslie USAF Veteran VA Employee says:

      It is sad to need a VSO advocate. Isn’t the VA supposed to be our advocate?

      • Bill says:

        No. They work for and are advocates for the VA, which makes your relationship with them adversarial rather than cooperative. Make no mistake, they are not there to help you-that’s what VSOs are for. Sad but accurate.

  41. Darnce says:

    It’s very simple. Obama despises the military. The claims process was slowed to a crawl as an off-the-books budget reduction. The military is being dismantled. Veterans are being treated as “Expendables.”

    What did you expect? Why did you vote for a muslim from Kenya?

  42. Leslie USAF Veteran VA Employee says:

    My father SMSGT Retired USAF. Retired 1978 died from leukemia 1986, when he was first diagnosed 1983 he filed a disability claim, he was exposed to Ionizing Radiation when stationed in 1959 in North Africa when he removed the runway where armed bomber crashed the bomber & nuclear warhead was allowed to burned to slag & as well the Agent Orange in Vietnam. Claim denied “not ill when he retired”. If he had been ill, he would not have had to file the claim right? In 1978 the VA had already listed his type of leukemia as illness linked to IR;after his death my mother filed claims for 25 yrs to service connect his leukemia, all denied because he was not ill when he retired; he had not filed a disability claim while he was alive & his IR/Agent Orange exposure was not related to his illness. When she died 2011. with a pending claim the VA cancelled the claim before they cancelled her survivor’s benefit. The VA practice of Delay & Deny until beneficiary is dead, remarries or gives up is still alive & well. Is this how VA takes care of Veteran’s.

  43. Pete says:

    More lies & excuses from the VA! Surprise Surprise! I challenge the VA to prove the imaginary timeframe of 273 days to complete a claim! We are all waiting at least twice that long!

  44. Bill says:

    Amazing that the problem has been studied for decades instead of being solved decades ago. If I remember the back cover of a past issue DAV magazine right, the solution, after careful and no doubt expensive study, was to do it right the first time. If it takes a study to deduce something so staggeringly obvious, is it any wonder things are such a mess?

    Oh and by the way, I’m no armchair quarterback. I filed a fully developed (and I do mean FULLY developed) disability claim almost 4 years ago, was scheduled for a hearing but was called the morning of same and told that an exam had been scheduled instead. Was seen by a GP who apparently neglected to read the mountain of medical evidence I submitted with the initial claim and who told me up front that she was not familiar with my condition. Wrong decision, lost claim, appealed claim, was sent not to a specialist as requested but a PA who knew even less than the GP and whose contempt for my claim was barely hidden. Wrong decision again, appealed again, case now in DC awaiting a hearing. I spent an entire year assembling the so-called bulletproof case everyone keeps saying to do to ensure accurate and proper decisions only to have everything ignored in favor of two examiners who were in over their heads but who refused to consider qualified supporting evidence or to refer me to a specialist. Do it right the first time, indeed.

  45. Dave Sherman says:

    I submitted my 3rd claim in Nov 2010. The Presumptive Illness clause was passed in 2011 stating that the illness must be Undiagnosed 6 months before to 3 months currently active. In my case I left the service in Mar 1992 and starting having health issues in Apr-May 1992. I returned from the Gulf War in June 1991. I have been on medication of different types for almost 21 yrs now all related to Acid Reflux. Where a normal 25 male could anything he desired to starting to limit what could be consumed. I find it interesting that the VA asks me for documentation that is in my file but they don’t look for it. I did my Gulf War Registry in Darmstadt, Germany in 1994 and again in 1995 in Oakland, CA upon returning from living overseas after I got out. It was in my 1st claim that was denied. My claim shows Preparation for Decision and changed in Dec 2012 which is when I added the DAV as my Representative. Also would the Backpay be to my 1st claim or when I got out?

  46. Carl US Army Vet says:

    MY CLAIM IS OVER 400 DAYS OLD!

  47. Charlie says:

    I’m a Vietnam vet who submitted my completed IHD claim (one of the illnesses presumed to be linked with Agent Orange exposure) to VA’s online Fastrack system in August 2011. I never got anywhere with that, so in March of 2012 I enlisted the help of Texas DAV, who helped me submit the same complete claim via paper. VA sent me delay letters a number of times and we have told VA that we have nothing else to submit. VA has everything they need to process my claim but it has now been a year and – nothing. eBenefits shows my claim but there is no way to ask VA what the holdup is on my claim. VA did tell me (letter) that Fastrack is defunct (thanks for that).

  48. Nick Swan says:

    I have not found any VSO’s worth their salt. Beyond the enitial filing stage, they are useless. They have no more power or insught then the Vet has, They can not get any more information out of the VA then the Vet can. Do not rely on the VSO, rely on yourself and only yourself.

  49. Joseph Bishop says:

    Please consider age when working the backlog of claims. I am 81 years old and a Korean war vet waiting 6.5 years for claim final action. I know it is convenient for the VA and our Government to wait until I die so no action is required and I drop off the backlog. How about the WW II guys still waiting in the claim process?

  50. Roy K says:

    My original disability claim was filed on 29 Sep 2009. It took a congressional inquiry to get the VA from losing a different set of medical records each month and finally derive as a rating on 27 June 2011. But, the VA denied all but one of my claims as not being service-connected despite the VA doctor’s statements that they were more than likely aggravated by military service. Because the migraine-headaches were found in my military medical records, the VA gave me 30%. I submitted an appeal (NOD) on 18 July 2011, and am still waiting. A Presidential inquiry forced the VA to review my appeal in Nov/Dec 2012 and schedule me for another med exam. The exams happened and my appeal records were then tossed back into the infinite pile of backlog most likely never to be seen again…despite the VA’s promise to complete the process within a few weeks.
    I can’t believe that the VA’s average backlog is only 273 days when my original claim took 628 days and my appeal has been backlogged for 613 days. The VA must be using some very creating accounting to come up with that 273-day backlog. I turn 60 in August 2013, and the VA is going to try their best to cheat me out of my military retirement because they only gave a 30% rather than what I truly deserve.

  51. Diane says:

    When is something going to be done with the incompetence at the regional office in Houston, tx. it has been over 2 years now since we did the appeals DRO hearing, concerning documents that was withheld from the decision panel, including a statement from the V A Voc-rehab, saying that he couldn’t be retrained. He has been declared 100% disabled by SS & OPM. But VA is still playing around with his claim & they are not even letting him know what is going on. It is like he doesn’t exist!! If anyone is filing a new claim move to another state as there is no hope for you getting help in Texas.

  52. Kathleen says:

    My husband served in the Army during WWII- Korea-Viet Nam (2x). He has prostate cancer from agent orange. Diagnosed in 1998, he was given 100%. He has been taking injections every 3 months & he will always have to take them the rest of his life. In Feb. 2011 he was sent a letter stating that he is 100% total & permently disabled (service connected) I received a letter last week,2013, from the VA stating that he, he is still 100% service connected, but because he is being given some new treatment. And that it is expected the he will be cured, he is not longer considered permenently disabled. There is no new treatment for him and there won’t be any new treatments for him as he is 91 years old. I don’t know where they are getting this information from, but it is very upsetting that they even threaten to stop his pension, last year. This man served proudly for this country, they should not keep him upset with this stupid stuff. Does anyone really give a damn about how the Veterans administration is treating men & women who gave so much, for this country. They deserve better.

  53. Ken says:

    The “average” might be 273 days but that means many are much longer than that. My claim is is now at 720 days and the only answer I get is that it is still in the “gathering of evidence” stage. They have requested some documents twice and even showed that they had previously received these documents. There has been no updated correspondence in over a year. I’ve called, gone to the state VA representative and get the same runaround answer. I am truly starting to believe my claim is just pushed to the side, waiting for me to go away or die.

  54. David Long says:

    I was originally given 10% disability for diabetes. Then 10% for heart disease while others were being assigned a 90% or 100% disability. Other issues have come up that are all related to being service connected. I filed yet again because of bleeding varices in my esophagus. According to the VA protocol, I should be over 80%. Yet, the VA denied my claim and its been well over a year that they are looking at my appeal. No answer and I have been going through this for a few years now. I feel bad for those vets who come home and are in more of a need for help than i am. The VA is so outdated, understaffed and undertrained that its pathetic. And it isn’t the fault of one president. There are several presidents who need to accept blame for this. The VA will also downgrade disabilities in order to save money or so they can avoid setting a precedent. The VA needs an overhaul and soon because as long as this country continues to wage war, there will be veterans who will return home needing help. A government who sends its young people to war needs to be ready to care for those young people when they return.

  55. David says:

    The average claim may take 273 days when you have a trained staff, but for me I am currently sitting at 425 plus or minus a few days. When I first made my claim for my chronic lung disease I was asked for medical records and any chest x-rays and/or CT Scans so I handed them over. They only took the paper and would not take the CDs with the x-rays or the CT Scans, so I went back to the hospital and had them PRINT the x-rays and CT Scans and returned to the VA. When I handed them over they told me they needed to be no bigger than 8.5 x 11 and I almost lost it. These people are not trained and they are way behind on technology. I am slowly dying from my chronic lung disease and at this rate I will never see any VA treatment or any disability.

  56. Ashely Urquhart says:

    If the VA was a unit in the Army the whole chain of command would have been released and re assigned. Are workers being held accountable for their progress? I really believe that this is part of the problem. As a veteran I know we work hard. As an unemployed veteran seeking work at the VA is often held for those with contracts who already are employed. I say OPEN these positions to MORE VETS! We know better then anyone else how up help each other out! I have resorted to going to that DAV for help which is so wrong on so many levels. I’ve been waiting since 9.11.2011, add that to the others who have been posting and I’m sure our average is way higher then 273 days. We gave our all to our country and its sad that I personally KNEW a few vets who took their life because of financial hardship that could have easily been solved if they were getting their pension. HIRE MORE VETS!!!

  57. Retired DRO says:

    The VA is clogged with claims for disability that have nothing to do with their active duty functions. Have you ever heard of any other job offering compensation to someone who was injured at home tripping at home on little Johnnie’s skate board, falling off a table while dancing in a bar, diving into shallow water in the family pool, and the list goes on. The law needs to exclude any disability that was not incurred in the actual performance of duty. And don’t go down the bull shit line that a serviceman is on call 24/7! Get rid of these claims and then the devoted employees will have more time to address actual service incurred disabilities.

  58. Terry Rollins says:

    It doesn’t matter if the average processing time is 273 days or two weeks if your an individual that has been waiting for 2 years and 8 months and there is absolutely nothing you can do. All the helplines and VSR’s and internet options are all terminated at nothing. You cannot get an answer to a question about a claim. I had been going to the VA for over 10 years and they denied I had a service connected heart condition. Five weeks after seeing a Private physician I was having a quadruple bypass. 100% blockage of left artery descending, 99.9% blockage of the circumlateral and 70% blockage of the other two. Just a little oversight on the VA’s part when their own radiological reports injdicated a myocardial infarction and an eschemic heart condition. I was in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969 so Agent Orange EXPOSURE WAS DEFINITE. Still waiting 20 months for the DeNovo review.

  59. PROUD TO HAVE SERVED .. sick of the way we Veterans are being treated when making claims for Health issues Concerning Herbicide Exposure. Take a look at the KOREAN VETERANS ( Cold War Era ) and the Constraints put upon them.
    Incomplete UNIT List and SUPPORT UNITS that have never been added.
    For and to the presumptive exposure list…
    Oh .. and just what does mentioning that there are a multitude of Veterans That have jobs in the VA have anything to do with the process at all. Good for them !
    The issue is why can’t the Management get the job done ?
    Who on earth cares about who is processing the BACKLOG of claims . Management is and has been lacking to get the issues resolved for years on end.

    Garbage in Garbage out ………….It seems the mentality of how to actually get the job done has been and is nothing more than a Smoke Screen year after year after year.
    The VA compensation claims process has become the CURSE of many veterans having to deal with such….

  60. BJacobs(GulfWarVet) says:

    I am a gulf war veteran. Found out years ago I have carcinoid tumors covering my liver, colon tumors and a meningioma wrapped around the nerves behind my right eye. Everything I put into my claim of what happened ironically is what the DOD and VA is now admitting happened. But because cancer is not one of the gulf war illnesses that they recognize, my claim was disapproved. Appeal has been in system since 2009. Good thing the VA keeps records of how many veterans from the Gulf War have died of cancer, esp rare forms… Oh I’m sorry, they don’t keep records like that.

  61. Jrod says:

    as a x VA employee I would like to comment about the claims process, it’s not the system which is bad it’s the people who processes the claims, I know because I saw this first hand, what happens in the VA regional offices , records get lost, certain VSR’s place their personal feelings into the claims process (they determine if the veteran deserves what he is claiming) this is wrong but some supervisors ignore this or agree with the VSR. They are suppose to follow the VA Regulation be it does not happen all the time. We need the VA IG to Inspect all Regional Offices to see if they follow the Regulations and Laws. God help all those Veterans that are awaiting claims and have Cancer that’s me..

    • Ashely Urquhart says:

      That’s why I say that should HIRE MORE VETS . Most of these positions are for people who already work there. I believe what you stated and its sad because I know if the VA was a military unit the job would get done!!

  62. Patrick Tatum says:

    Hello. I think it’s great that the VA knows that there is a problem, and on track to fix that problem. For those veterans that have claims and appeals in the system right now are just expected to wait years for a decision? I have an appeal for over 15 months and a simple claim for 13 months in the Roanoke, VA RO. Every time I ask for an update, I get the standard reply that the average time is 8 months and NOD is 246 days, (knowing that it is taking longer than that to complete). Your customer service definitely needs to be work on.

  63. Robert Mitten says:

    had an Agent Orange Claim in and it took them 15 months (450) days for it to be approved for a 10% for (Tinitus) Disability and the rest REJECTED. It has been determined that I was exposed to Agent Orange while on Duty in Thailand. It only took them over 40 years to admit that they used Agent Orange in Thailand. The AmVet Rep at the Long Beach VA Hospital was kind enough to re-open my case and commented that he believed they made a mistake because I do have Diabetes II and have neropathy of both feet and both of my hands and a 40% loss of hearing.
    I had sent a complaint letter to Secretary Shinseki who’s office in turn sent the letter
    to the San Diego Office which I think held up any action on my Disability Complaint. It should never have taken 450 days for them to REJECT my Disability Claim.

  64. I will throw my two cents into this 1. the new simple easy to use form 21-526 is 8 pages long, so how has that made processing claims any faster? 2. Regional Offices should answer their own telephones and not have call centers three states away doing it for them. 3. Quality assurance is not even on the VA menu I recently received another veterans personal information which included his SSN, bank account number, and his mailing address. 4. I understand that there is a backlog but I can not find a reason why a claim that went back to gathering evidence which was submitted two days after the request was made should not be completed with in ten days after receipt of the needed information. I have had an appeal somewhere in the Denver RO over an issue that should not have needed an appeal had someone read the records, that appeal has been sitting somewhere now for over 540 days, and no one seems to even know where it is. Please someone explain to me how this system is getting fixed.