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Waiting for Your VA Disability Benefits? There's a Reason.

 If you have applied for VA disability benefits in the past year and are still waiting for an answer - any answer - you are probably stuck in the VA's disability benefits backlog. Nearly half a million vets are waiting just to hear whether their claims were processed.

The VA benefits backlog continues to grow, with 858,831 claims waiting as of January 27, 2012. This represents an increase in the backlog of almost 100,000 over one year ago, and nearly 500,000 over 2009, and is attributable to the growing number of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, there has been an increase in Vietnam veterans' benefits claims, resulting from the VA implementing new regulations that make it easier to obtain benefits for problems caused by Agent Orange exposure.

The Secretary of the VA, Eric K. Shinseki, has instituted new procedures in an effort to reduce the backlog of claims. For example, the VA will begin using a paperless claims procedure that it hopes will reduce the wait time by several months. It will be implemented on a rolling basis starting this summer, continuing into 2013.

It has also strengthened its efforts to revise its WWII-era disability rating system; however, any changes will probably not be implemented for several years. Another problem is that the Defense Department and the VA use different rating systems. Members of the congressional oversight committee are urging the two departments to adopt the same disability rating systems, another change that will take considerable time.

Veteran's advocacy groups are hoping for much speedier changes. "Vets are dying while waiting for the VA ...," said Theodore Jarvi, past president of the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates.

But veterans' service organizations are urging quicker action. "Vets are dying while waiting for the VA to do this job," Theodore Jarvi, past president of the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates, told the subcommittee.

Source: Washington Post, "VA Struggling With Disability Backlog"," by Steve Vogel, Jan. 30, 2012.

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