Backlog improves for veterans seeking benefit claims

Veteran's Advocate


The veterans’ benefit claims backlog has dropped substantially in the past few years.

The change is allowing most veterans to get their claims approved in less than the 120 days, after which it would be considered backlogged.

In May 2011, there were more than 600,000 veterans waiting for their claims for benefits to be settled, some waiting more than a year without a positive answer from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) reports now show that there are about 390,000 claims pending, with about 100,590 of those backlogged.

Yes, VA has to verify information and make sure everything is correct with a claim before approving it, but even 100 days seems like a long time when a veteran is in need and must claim the benefits he or she earned.

“It used to take a year, at least,” said Bill Benagh, commander of Disabled American Veterans 123 on Merritt Island. He said he believes that most claims are now taking fewer than
100 days.

DAV 123 is one of the busiest in the state among the veterans’ service organizations that help veterans file their claims for compensation. The group, which has 16 trained volunteer service officers, handled 3,500 cases, including claims for compensation, pension and survivor benefits.

“We’re still getting the same amount coming in,” said Chip Hanson, a veterans’ service officer. “The backlog is down. Claims are being processed well.”

Hanson said there were lots of lessons learned from the time when the backlog was so high only a few years ago. Those lessons learned have allowed the VA to process them quicker.

Benagh said that among the things done to speed up the claims include encouraging “fully developed claims,” in which all paperwork is sent in at once. It also includes “intent to file,” which holds a place in the process for up to a year. More of the compensation claims are now being filed even before a service member gets out of the military.

“We’ve seen the results of that, and it seems to be working.”

The VA was under a lot of pressure to fix the system and the result is much better for veterans, even though there are bound to be cases that won’t go
as smoothly. 

Veterans sometimes try to navigate on their own what could be a complicated process of filing a claim. The recommendation is to seek out a service organization like the DAV, VFW or other groups that have the trained volunteers that can help veterans get their benefits.

“Don’t try this at home,” Benagh said. “Go to somebody that knows what they are doing.”

VBA serves nearly 4.5 million veterans who receive either compensation or pension benefits. In fiscal year 2015, it delivered more than $63.5 billion in compensation and pension.