The number of pending VA appeals has increased in recent years, even though the backlog of benefit appeals has decreased significantly. There are 200,000 undecided cases.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — The U.S. promised to care for servicemen returning from war, but the government failed to respond at the end of negotiations, with up to 200,000 veterans awaiting decision on appeal. monthly disability benefits.
‘I don’t think it’s fair’
Some veterans wait years for benefits decisions without any assurance that they will be paid.
“Typical military. Hurry up and wait,” Army veteran Leroy Perry said tearfully. “I don’t think it’s fair to me or other veterans.”
Four years of service during the First Gulf War have continued since Perry returned home. In return, he said he fought the VA for more than a decade for disability benefits for everything from his knee injury to post-traumatic stress disorder.
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Thankfully, a free attorney came to his defense and helped the father of five children ultimately secure about $4,000 a month for him and his family, but retroactively No payment was made. His case barely moves.
“I keep telling myself, if I hadn’t moved anywhere in two years, I would be alive and [does] Perry wondered. “Every other veteran in front of me, how long [have] were they waiting? ”
Perry’s VA profile shows about 60,000 other appeals ahead of him. With a total of 200,000 appeals pending, there are 140,000 more lawsuits behind him.
“You want to be proud to serve your country,” said a disappointed Perry. [they’re] difficult. “
look: An emotional interview with Leroy Perry
VA billing process
Veterans who become ill or injured as a result of their service are eligible for monthly disability benefits. Still, first the VA must approve their claims and determine how much they should receive and when those payments become effective. According to the VA, that alone takes an average of 110 days.
If the veteran disagrees with any part of the decision, he or she may file an appeal and have the case reviewed by a Veterans Law Judge in Washington, DC. Veterans can cross the line to obtain priority status if they are in financial difficulty, terminally ill, or elderly, but it is usually on a first-come, first-served basis.
VA reports an average appeal wait time of 405 days for the fastest appeal lane. The agency’s timeliness goal is 365 days of its path.
The latest data show that the average number of days pending appeals to hearings is the slowest lane, over 630 days.
VA Estimates Are “Not Accurate”
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Attorney Amy Fokler said in her experience, appeals take much longer than that.
“They are not accurate,” Fokler said of the VA’s latency estimates. “We cannot predict when the VA will respond. [my client’s] case. “
Fokler represents hundreds of veterans who are desperate to secure money they claim to rightfully own. He said he was a victim of an overwhelmed federal system.
“I think it’s a failure on the VA’s part to recognize veterans as people. They’re very focused on numbers,” she said. But it will be a long time before we see any significant change.”
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Fokler would know. She previously worked for the Veterans Affairs Appeals Board for several years.
“I think it was especially difficult for the board to understand that it wasn’t just a file. These aren’t just papers shuffled across your desk, but these are veterans who fought for our country.” It’s the military, the benefits they’ve earned, and what they deserve…that recognition,” she said. “These are real people, and I think Washington overlooks that. It’s their responsibility to take care of veterans.”
Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017
Faced with an even bigger backlog, Congress passed legislation in 2017 to speed up the broken process and give veterans more options, but it took a year and a half to fully implement the new law. It took. Since then, the VA has significantly reduced the number of old, so-called “legacy” appeals, but more and more new Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) cases continue to come in. Also in recent years.
“I wish VA had responded faster, hired more staff, and prepared,” says Fochler. “Politically, I don’t think Congress is acting as quickly as it could.”
Veterans Appeals Committee Chair Sherrill Mason acknowledged shortcomings at a 2021 congressional hearing, but asked for help.
“There’s still work to be done,” she told a subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee at the time. , we don’t have the resources to do that.”
VA is hiring more attorneys, judges and support staff.
VA declined to answer WCNC Charlotte’s question on camera. A VA spokesperson said in an email that he has received approval to increase staff by more than one-third hers as part of an effort to “build capacity to meet anticipated demand.” The agency once again acknowledged that it still has “a lot of work to do.”
The VA recorded a record year of 102,000 appeal decisions in 2020. The agency has nearly replicated that amount of work in subsequent years and expects to surpass that number this year.
“We remain vigilant in filling vacancies, training personnel, and processing decisions as quickly and diligently as possible,” the agency added.
The Veterans Affairs Appeals Board hoped to resolve all “legacy” appeals by the end of 2022, but fell short of that goal.
“We remain committed to resolving all legacy appeals as quickly as possible. “Since November 2017, we have reduced legacy appeals from 472,066 to 84,063 by the end of this year. , the pending inventory is higher than we originally anticipated.We developed our initial plan in October 2019, before COVID hit, so we are revising our plan based on the pandemic and the evolving work environment. I needed it.”
The agency now plans to settle all of its oldest claims by the end of 2023.
“Everyone is trying to do their job,” said Fokler, who worked at the agency. I see it continue and try to do the best I can when I’m there, but it’s a frustrating process.
the battle continues
Leroy Perry doesn’t believe in this system. VA has let him down many times before.
“I’m far from the front line. That was two years ago,” Perry said. “They don’t know when it will go before a judge.”
As he awaits his appeal, Perry carries with him everything he went through during the war. The disrespect he has experienced over the decades of military service hurts even more.
“It won’t go away. It won’t go away,” he cried. “I will risk my life for you.”
virtual town hall
WCNC Charlotte wants to be part of the solution. WCNC Charlotte will host an expert panel that can answer questions about the VA Disability Benefits Plan and provide helpful resources on Thursdays at 8:00 pm on the WCNC Charlotte Facebook page.
People can ask questions at the virtual town hall or send questions in advance to 704-329-3600.
In the meantime, there are other helpful resources. Veterans are encouraged to begin by considering using a certified attorney, claims agent, or Veterans Services organization representative to assist the veteran in filing an appeal. The agency has a searchable database available for finding qualified help.
How to submit a claim:
Submit a claim online:
Appeal under the AMA:
Lawmakers who can make a difference:
Both Republicans and Democrats recently announced new congressional committee assignments.
Below is a list of lawmakers serving on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Please click the name for contact information.
- Chairman Rep. Mike Bost (R), Illinois
- Ranking members Mark Takano, (D), CA
- Rep. Jack Bergman (Republican), Michigan
- Rep. Julia Brownley (Democrat), California
- Rep. Nikki Budzinski (Democrat), Illinois
- Congressman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (Democrat), Florida
- Congressman Juan Ciscomani (R), Arizona
- Rep. Eli Crane (Republican), Arizona
- Chris Deluzio Rep. (Democrat), Pennsylvania
- Rep. Scott Franklin (Republican), Florida
- Rep. Jen Kigans (Republican), Virginia
- Rep. Greg Landsman (Democrat), Ohio
- Rep. Mike Levin (Democrat), California
- Morgan Luttrell (Republican), Texas
- Congressman Nancy Mace (R), SC
- Rep. Morgan McGarvey (Democrat), Kentucky
- Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks (Republican), Iowa
- Rep. Frank Mullvan (Democrat), Indiana
- Rep. Greg Murphy (Republican), North Carolina
- Chris Pappas Rep. (Democrat), New Hampshire
- Congressman Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (right), American Samoa
- Rep. Delia Ramirez, (Democrat), Illinois
- Rep. Matt Rosendale (Republican), Montana
- Rep. Keith Self (Republican), Texas
- Rep. Derrick Van Oden (Republican), Wisconsin
Below is a list of senators who have served on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. Please click the name for contact information.
- Chair Senator Jon Tester (Democrat), MT
- Ranking Member Senator Jerry Moran (Republican), Kansas
- Senator Marsha Blackburn (Republican), Tennessee
- Senator Richard Blumenthal (Democrat), CT
- Sen. John Boozman (Republican), Arkansas
- Senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat), Ohio
- Senator Bill Cassidy (R), Louisiana
- Sen. Kevin Cramer (Republican), Naturopathic Physician
- Senator Margaret Wood Hassan (Democrat), New Hampshire
- Senator Mazzy K. Hirono (Democrat), HI
- Senator Joe Manchin III (Democrat), West Virginia
- Sen. Patti Murray (Democrat), Washington
- Senator Mike Roundes (Republican), SD
- Senator Bernie Sanders (I), VT
- Sen. Kirsten Cinema (I), Arizona
- Senator Dan Sullivan (R), AK
- Senator Tom Tillis (Republican), North Carolina
- Sen Tommy Tuberville (R), AL
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