Here’s an interesting take on why we have such a humongous backlog. Blame the internet. If all those Vets returning from Iraqistan would quit filing three page lists we could eliminate it (the backlog) next year. Hellooooo? Nobody told us to run out and do it when we returned to the world in 1970. Nobody said boo. Most were lucky if they got a separation physical in the cattle drive for the Main gate to get off base. Now we are informed that these greedy Vets are just gaming the system with a heap of claims filings. Not good. This is why we’ll never get out from under the backlog- in 2015 or 2020. The process has to change to paperless and the protocol has to be one of grant obvious claims now and do an audit (a la Filner) soon to confirm. When you come home missing a piece of scalp from an IED, it shouldn’t take 16 months to confirm you didn’t cut your scalp shaving. If you come home and tend to sleep in the bathtub with a .45 ACP , it’s safe to say you have some bent brain box issues that need resolution. Sure, Vets fake symptoms to get compensation or so it is said. But seriously-all of us? Everyone of us has to be put under a microscope and examined for credulity? They trusted you with guns, hand grenades and Big Boy toys for 4 years but you might be cheating to get $350.00 a month? Member Bob sends me this explanation:
Complicated Claims Slow Down VA Payments
Backlog stands near 867,000; average wait time hits 257 days
By Rick Maze
More complex disability claims filed by new veterans and supplemental claims for increased benefits appear to be the major factors in the large and still growing backlog of unprocessed claims.
Veterans Affairs Department officials have cited complexity as one reason for a backlog of 866,928 compensation and pension claims piled up at its regional offices, including 575,711 that are more than 125 days old.
VA data shows that Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans are averaging slightly more than nine disability issues per claim, far more than any other generation of veterans since World War II.
Gerald Manar of Veterans of Foreign Wars said he has seen claims with up to 75 separate disability issues — and has heard of one that lists 125 disabilities.
“It looks like some people are going through their medical and personnel records and writing down every time they went to the clinic and every time they saw a corpsman, for a splinter or for something more serious, because they don’t want to leave anything out,” said Manar, deputy director of VFW’s national veterans service.
More medical problems
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are filing claims with more total disabilities for several reasons, Manar said.
For one thing, these wars have seen much greater use of National Guard and reserve troops than earlier conflicts. Reservists “tend to be older than their active-duty counterparts, making them more subject to wear and tear on their bodies,” Manar said.
He also noted that many troops deployed multiple times to Iraq or Afghanistan or both, while most Vietnam vets — whose claims average less than six disability issues — deployed for one year and then left active duty.
“More deployments means they are subject to greater opportunity to be exposed to [improvised explosive devices] and other hazards,” he said. “The greater time deployed, the greater opportunity for injury.” Joe Violante of Disabled American Veterans said another factor in claims complexity is outreach.
“When I got out, I barely knew what benefits were available. Today, there is a big difference in awareness,” said Violante, DAV’s national legislative director and a Marine Corps veteran who left service in 1972.
Pre-separation briefings are making troops smarter about getting service-connected medical conditions documented in their records, Violante said.
“I really don’t think they are whiners,” he said. “These are people doing what they should, and what has been recommended to them, so they can receive the benefits they have earned.” The general rise in awareness also is reaching veterans of earlier generations with medical problems they may not have thought of as service-connected.
Violante said one Vietnam vet recently called DAV for help on finding a private doctor to work on an artificial limb “because the duct tape he’d been using wasn’t working anymore.” The veteran was surprised to learn VA would help him — if only he would ask.
Neither Violante nor Manar said he believes an increase in mental health-related issues is a major reason Iraq- and Afghanistan-era vets are filing more claims.
That in itself “is not a reason for the backlog,” Violante said. “We know about 20 percent of returning veterans have reported mental health issues, but that is just one of the many disabilities they appear to be claiming.”
A sharp spike
Since 2001, claims received by VA have jumped 94 percent, with 1.3 million received in fiscal 2011. VA records also show the number of people involved in processing claims has risen 97 percent over the same period.
Of 866,928 benefits claims pending as of Aug. 18, 37 percent were new. The rest were supplemental claims, mostly from people already getting disability benefits seeking to increase their ratings by adding disabilities or showing their disabilities had worsened.
Only 31 percent of original claims in the backlog are from Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans; 30 percent are from Vietnam-era veterans or survivors, 19 percent from veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the rest from other generations.
VA records show processing time is slowing. In 2001, the average time to complete a claim was 181 days; that’s now 257 days.
Accuracy on claims decisions also has regressed. In 2001, VA had an 81 percent accuracy rate. VA officials said the rate improved to a peak of 90 percent in 2006 but has slipped to 86 percent today.
Violante said he doesn’t put much faith in VA’s pledge to begin reducing the backlog by 2015.
“We’ve seen a change in mindset in the top leadership of VA to get something done, but I don’t believe the culture that has allowed the backlog to grow has changed,” he said.
Despite some improvements, Manar said, “It still looks like it will be more than 20 years before the backlog is eliminated.”
One reason the Veterans Affairs Department’s backlog of pending disability claims has remained high is that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the 1991 Persian Gulf War, are filing more complicated claims, listing more medical problems, than veterans of earlier conflicts. The average number of medical conditions per disability claim, by conflict era:
Iraq/Afghanistan wars: 9.14
1991 Persian Gulf War: 7.53
Vietnam War: 5.21
Korean War: 3.84
World War II: 3.71
SOURCE: Veterans Affairs Department staff
So, gentle reader. What can we take away from this? I see a lot of Vietnam claims (30%) from where I stand. vA insists that the AO balloon has passed through and is waning on the new presumptives. I strongly disagree. What I see is knowledge of how to do this growing among eligible Vietnam Vets and a growing awareness that their sickness can be attributed to disease/injury in that war. VSOs are also instrumental in that older Vets from as far back as the Korean Boundary Dispute are joining fraternal organizations and being apprised of their eligibility for NSC pensions and the like. Add in widows of Vets from WW2 forward and you have a rush to the feed trough. Congress mandated these benefits so those who avail themselves of it shouldn’t be considered greedy.
By serving, we earned certain rights. We shouldn’t be painted as greedy money grubbers for acting on it. That’s pretentious. We certainly should not face the opprobrium of the vA for this. Blame the politicians for their bellicose behaviour-not the unfortunate Vet who is the collateral damage.
Here’s an example of a cattle drive to the Main gate. PTSD? No way, dude. It’s antisocial personality w/ passive aggressive tendencies. Coughing up blood? Too many smokes. Painful left hip? Beats us. We can’t figure it out so its not SC. Next?
That’s funny. Nobody knew about Agent Orange in 1973. The doctor suggested I smoked too much. I sure didn’t. That would be the “civilian doctor” Air America employed.