While the bureaucratic system that comprises the VA causes frustration among veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs has implemented a Claims Initiative to expedite claims that are over a year old, effective April 19, 2013. Unfortunately this is still no guarantee that a claim that is over a year old, or even older than a year, will be processed as quickly as we would like. And while there are no true ways of speeding up the claims process within the VA, there are other ways to expedite your claim.
Concurrent with the Claims Initiative of April 19, 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs stated that claims of veterans who face homelessness, extreme financial hardship, and advanced age will continue to be prioritized. This initiative applies to both the VA and Board processes.
According to 38 CFR §7107, a veteran’s claim can be expedited for earlier consideration and determination if the appellant is seriously ill, is under severe financial hardship, or if other sufficient cause is shown. Advanced age and homelessness would be considered “sufficient cause”.
Under 38 CFR §61.1, homeless can be defined as:
- Lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence
- Having a primary nighttime residence that is:
- A shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill)
- A public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
Extreme Financial Hardship
In many cases, veterans face extreme financial hardship due to service-related conditions that prevent them from working and pursuing gainful employment. Such instances of extreme financial hardship might be:
- Home foreclosure
- Vehicle repossession
- Termination of utilities services
- Inability to meet the cost of basic living expenses (food, clothing, housing, transportation, medical care).
In support of a request to expedite a claim due to extreme financial hardship, the veteran should provide evidence of hardship, such as foreclosure notices, bank statements, notices from utility companies, records of public assistance (food stamps, etc.).
According to 38 CFR §20.900, the advanced age of the appellant can be sufficient cause to expedite a veteran’s claim. For purposes of this regulation, “advanced age” is defined as 75 or more years of age.
While all of the above factors constitute sufficient cause to expedite a claim, there are no hard and fast timeframes that the VA and the Board must follow in expediting claims under these conditions. However, the more evidence that veterans can obtain in support of a request to expedite, the more quickly claims can be decided favorably.