Posted on 27 Feb, 2018
Veterans who have been injured or gotten sick during and because of their time in the service are finding it difficult to get prompt compensation hearings. There are Vietnam veterans waiting for their hearings who might die from the tumors they may have developed from exposure to chemical weapons like Agent Orange. There are currently an estimated 470,000 veterans awaiting hearings and trapped in the bloated process of filing an appeal through the Veterans Affairs benefits program.
The entire appeals process is filled with redundancies and bureaucratic red tape. For instance, when a veteran files an appeal, they may have to wait up to five years for a resolution. During this time, the case goes from the appeals board to the regional office several times. This is because after it is referred to the appeals board, they will refer it back to the regional office for clarifications and extra information. Then the regional office will send it back again, at which time the appeals board can again refer it back. The case ends up in a loop. All this time, the veteran may be dying or getting more and more ill.
The main issue seems to be that there is a backlog. As the veterans from Vietnam start to experience some of the effects of what they were exposed to back then, veterans of more current wars like Iraq and Afghanistan are filing their claims as well. The problem is so bad that at the current pace, in 10 years the wait may be up to 25 years for an appeal.
Democratic senators proposed a bill in Congress that would mandate the VA hires more staff to help process the backlog of appeals. Unfortunately, the bill was voted down, and President Trump has instead mandated a hiring freeze. This means that the problem is not going to go away any time soon.
Many are also proposing institutional changes that will allow for a better framework for the appeals process that could also help reduce waiting times. If you are a veteran who is having difficulty with an appeal with the VA, contact an attorney to help guide you through the process.
If you are in need of a Veterans attorney, do not hesitate to contact Gustad Law online or by calling 206-533-2222.