We are often asked by veterans, “When will I receive my benefits, or why is it taking so long, or how much more blood do they need before I get my money?” These are very legitimate questions that can be difficult to answer due to the steps required to prove eligibility; regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, there is a lengthy process, more formally known as the Claims Process, which must be followed before any benefits can be awarded.
As most veterans and the public in general should know by now, the VA has undergone a significant overhaul since the debacles of the system were announced by the media back in April of this year. They have, in fact, made significant progress in accelerating access to health care and addressing the numerous deficiencies within the system. Their ultimate goal is to improve service delivery to veterans in an effort to rebuild trust with them and all Americans. This was as of a result of the implementation of the Accelerated Access to Care Initiative. Despite the changes and improvements in place, when it comes to filing claims for compensation benefits, a series of steps still must ensue which continue to “drag-out” the process for receiving benefits.
There are eight distinct steps that must be followed for the majority of disability compensation claims. Listed below are the steps with a basic explanation provided.
- Claim – The veteran submits a claim for disability benefits to their local RO. Depending on the mode of transmission, i.e., electronically or by U.S. mail, will determine how quickly the claim is entered into the system. Obviously, those claims that are mailed will take longer versus those submitted electronically (at least in theory).
- Review Process – Your claim will be reviewed by a VA representative who makes the determination if additional documentation to support your claim is necessary.
- Evidence – The VA will inform the veteran of specific documents necessary to support the claim. This is primarily for those cases that are questionable when determining eligibility or not.
- Review of Evidence – After review of the evidence submitted, if additional information is necessary, the veteran will be notified as to what else must be done to move forward with the claim and how much time he/she has to present the documentation. Please understand; this step could be repeated numerous times until the VA is satisfied with the evidence submitted.
- The Decision – This could be favorable or not for the veteran. Once a decision has been made, the veteran will receive a report or decision that could be in the form of an RD or SOC outlining the decision made and the evidence used in determining the outcome. Again, more evidence may be required which again takes you back to step #4.
- Pending Approval – This is not much different from “the decision” whereby additional evidence may be required and again you are back to step #4.
- Notification – Here we go again!!! The claim decision is made and mailed to the veteran. In the eyes of the VA, the process now moves to the next step. In the eyes of the veteran he/she may not agree and have to look at other alternatives have the decision amended to a more favorable one.
- Completed – The VA mails you a complete packet of information and considers the case closed. Does this mean it is over…maybe or maybe not? It all depends on the VA’s decision and if you want to continue to pursue compensation you believe is (and more often than not) what you deserve!
Over the last several months since the appointment of Secretary Robert A. McDonald, the VA has been moving forward in ways to better serve their customers – the veterans. This focus will continue via reorganization and implementation of new programs and services. The end result will hopefully make the VA a better, stronger, and faster organization for all veterans.