With a backlog of almost half a million appeals and an average processing time of several years, veterans have been frustrated by the lengthy waits and lack of communication.
The tool allows veterans to see how many cases are ahead of them on the appeals docket and provides alerts about next steps, along with estimates of how long each of those steps will take.
Veterans who have been injured or contracted a disease while on active duty or in training are entitled to monthly disability payments. The amount depends on the severity of the illness or injury. Veterans have to be at least 10 percent disabled to be eligible for benefits. A veteran can appeal if he or she was denied benefits or believes that the disability is more serious than the VA has deemed.
The appeals system “is a complex and lengthy process,” and “veterans wait, on average, between three to seven years to receive a final decision on their appeal,” says a VA spokesperson.
To streamline the process, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. The law takes effect fully in February 2019 and gives veterans more appeals-process options and makes it easier for them to get a high-level review of their claims. The VA also recently launched the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program for veterans with pending appeals.
Michael Figlioli, deputy director of National Veterans Service at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, says his group and other veterans service organizations worked closely with the VA to develop the tracking tool. “It was a good collaboration and one that is certainly going to help veterans with a clearer and better understanding of the claims process,” he says.
“Any time you can give vets more information about what is going on, that’s great,” says Jim Marszalek, the national service director of Disabled American Veterans. “This is keeping them informed, letting them see their case is still active and they haven’t been forgotten.”