KUSA - The VA is whittling down wait times for veterans to be approved for financial and medical assistance for injuries they received in the service.
Department of Veterans Affairs officially announced on Wednesday changes to required paperwork to help eliminate their claims backlog by the end of the year, which would mean virtually all compensation claims would be processed within 125 days.
Of the 7,743 claims currently being processed in the VA's Denver Regional Benefits Office, 53 percent are considered backlogged. Most claims are asking for monthly financial compensation and ongoing medical care for service-connected disabilities. Other claims are for other benefits like pensions, burials and vocational rehab.
To assist in reducing the backlog, the VA is mandating veterans use standardized forms , even for "informal" claims, beginning March 24. In the past, veterans had been allowed to make many requests by letter. Veterans who have an existing claim request will not have to re-file their paperwork.
The forms below, once optional, are now mandatory:
- For disability benefits, applicants must now use VA Form 21-526EZ http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526EZ-ARE.pdf , Application for Disability Compensation and Related CompensationBenefits.
- To apply for needs-based pension, use VA Form 21-527EZ http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-527EZ-ARE.pdf , Application for Pension.
- To file a claim for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), survivor's pension, and accrued benefits, claimants should complete VA Form 21-534EZ http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-534EZ-ARE.pdf , Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits.
- Veterans filing a Notice of Disagreement should use VA Form 21-0958 http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0958-ARE.pdf, Notice of Disagreement.
The change will result in a more "timely and accurate decision' said Thomas Murphy, the VA's Director of Compensation Services and Pension.
"Come to us through a standard form, Murphy said. "We get a reduced frustration level on the part of the veteran because they've told us exactly what it is. We get a faster processing time on the part of the VA because I understand clearly what that veteran wants and take action immediately."
The VA has been able to substantially reduce the total number of claims nationwide over the past three years. VA workers are currently processing 480,000 claims, which is roughly half of the 884,000 claims that were in the VA pipeline in July 2012, when delays in claims processing became a national scandal.
In the past two years the VA has moved from paper to electronic files and created a "fully developed claims" campaign to try to speed processing time for veterans.
A bill now working its way through Congress aims to further reduce the wait by allowing veterans to be examined for service-connected disabilities by private doctors. Currently they must receive and exam through a VA physician.
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