White House officials are pushing Congress to amend and improve, if not completely overhaul the appeals process for American veterans aid appeals for benefit claims this year, noting the shrinking legislative window and calling the system a disaster.
“This process is failing veterans,” said Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson. “Nobody can defend the status quo here.”
More than 440,000 veterans have appeals cases pending in the benefits system, a caseload that has risen steadily in recent years as officials have focused on decreasing the number of backlogged first-time claims.
But VA officials have insisted the two aren’t connected, noting the percentage of cases appealed has remained steady. Instead, the problem has been the rising number of total claims from veterans, as more troops deal with issues from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Vietnam and other conflicts.
There are 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces as of 2014, according the Census Bureau, approximately 10 percent of whom are women. To put that in context there are 319.2 million Americans, according to the bureau, which makes the percentage of veterans almost 7% of the total US population.
That is to say that there is an ever increasing number of veterans with needs. The sheer quantity is overwhelming Veterans Affairs.
Today, the average completion time for appeals cases decided by the Veterans Benefits Administration is three years, the average for cases decided by the Board of Veterans Appeals is five years. Officials have not seen increases in the rate of success among the appeals, but have noted that the process is frustratingly cumbersome for both veterans and staff.
VA leaders have floated a plan to get that process down to under a year and a half for most cases, but they need congressional intervention to rework filing timelines and evidence submission rules. They’re hoping the veterans omnibus looming in the Senate will include those changes, and are making another lobbying push this week for its inclusion.
American veterans aid appeals should be a priority. If you are 65 or older and need assistance with your Aid & Attendance benefit claim visit http://www.americanveteransaid,com