As we know, it can take years for the resolution of a VA claim and the VA appeal process can be complicated and confusing. The average wait time for a claim to be decided varies from each VA Regional Office (RO) but on average, it can take between two and five years. If an appeal is at the Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA), this can add on additional years before a decision in made. With that being said, one question that arises frequently is how to speed up the process. Unfortunately, there is little to be done and we mostly have to wait patiently on “VA time” until a decision is made. However, there are three occasions where the VA will expedite, or move more quickly, on a claim. These situations are addressed on a case by case basis and the RO or BVA will decide whether they qualify for an expedite.
One way to get moved up on the list for getting a decision is advanced age. The regulation at the BVA states that a veteran who is 75 years or older is considered advanced age and meets the condition to expedite their claim. However, this specific age criterion is only at the BVA. Some regional offices specify that due to the massive number of cases they have, the expedite is for veterans 80 years or older. In some extremely busy Regional Offices, these offices have regulated that the age expedite is only for veterans 85 or older. To clarify, if your claim is at the BVA and you are at least 75 years old, you can request for an expedite. However, if your claim is at a Regional Office, it would be best to contact the office to see what age they use to qualify for an expedite based on advanced age.
Another way to expedite your claim is if you are in severely poor health. Poor health includes terminal illnesses that are incurable and will eventually result in the death of a person. Examples of terminal illnesses include stage IV cancers, leukemia, heart failure, and kidney failure. Other instances of poor health can be argued and usually are granted on a case-by-case basis. If you are suffering from extremely poor health when filling for an expedite it is important to have credible evidence to back up your claim of poor health. If you can get a statement from one of your doctors stating the current state of your health or medical records which show recent hospitalizations or treatment, this strengthens your chance of receiving an expedite based on poor health.
Severe Financial Hardship
If a veteran is experiencing severe financial hardship, he or she may qualify for a financial expedite. Like the poor health expedite, this is usually granted on a case-by-case basis and providing additional evidence is important to prove that you are severely struggling with your finances. Examples of severe financial hardship include:
- Home Foreclosure
- Termination of utilities including electricity, water, and gas
- Inability to meet daily living expenses including food, clothing, and housing
- Notices of past-due rent or mortgage payments
One financial hardship that the VA takes seriously is when veterans are homeless. Homelessness is defined as lacking a fixed, regular nighttime residence or having a primary residence that is temporary or in a place not designated for regular housing. If you are living on the streets, in your car, or bouncing from one residence to another due to extreme financial hardship, you may qualify for an expedite. Evidence of severe financial hardship can include signed sworn statements of the veteran, friends, and family which can provide insight on the financial situation. It is also important to include evidence of hardship through supporting documentation such as foreclosure notices, bank statements, and notices of past due bills.
While these three situations may expedite your claim, it is important to remember that even if your expedite is granted, it can still take months for a decision to be made. However, any reduction of waiting time is helpful and it is important to include credible evidence with your expedite request in order to increase the likelihood of it being granted.