About 1 million veterans file disability claims each year; 10 percent of them will need to appeal the decision made on their claim. Whether they know it or not, they will enter into a process that takes years, sometimes decades, to complete.
The current appeals process, created in 1933, has convolutions that make it barely comprehensible to experts and completely opaque to the veterans who depend on its outcomes.
For the veteran, that means they will have to jump through hoops, fill out confusing paperwork, and learn to live with waiting. Being in a war zone was a walk in the park compared to dealing with the VA claims and appeals debacle.
The appellate processing time has tripled to over 1,400 days since 1991. That is a month longer than the entire U.S. involvement in World War II.
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In theory, the appeals process should create one of the most applicant-friendly systems in the VA. In reality, though, veterans wrestle with a process so complex and monstrous, it fails to provide the results veterans need in the time they need them.
For example, Open Record, which allows veterans to add evidence at any time in the process to provide strength to their case, starts the process all over again.
Elected officials, when asked for help, do nothing of any value. The Vietnam Veterans of America, the group I turned to that is supposed to be shepherding my claim, won’t even return my calls now.
I get excellent care from the VA medical facilities where I am being treated for a number of what are called “presumptive illnesses” associated with Agent Orange exposure. The compensation process, however, is a dismal failure.
I, like millions of others, honored my commitment to serve, but I now have to wonder why I did so.