Written by: Rachel Strubel

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) recently announced a new initiative in an attempt to simplify the disability claim process for both veterans and the Department. Starting in March 2015, the VA will use new standardized electronic forms, making it easier for veterans to state their disability claims with the necessary information. The VA is also simultaneously creating a new “Intent to File” procedure that preserves the claim’s effective date while giving the veteran up to a year to compile the necessary documentation. Previously, veterans were able to submit their request for benefits in any form, which VA alleges contributed to the delays in processing. With these initiatives, the VA hopes to increase the efficiency in the disability claims and appeals process.

While it appears facially that these new processes will provide more assistance to veterans by increasing the efficiency of the disability compensation, it may in fact be more detrimental to veterans. First and foremost, these processes require veterans to submit additional documentation, increasing the burden on the veteran despite the VA’s statutory duty to assist veterans in the disability claims process.  In other words, these processes are passing the VA’s duty onto veterans.  Additionally, many veterans may not have access to these forms and the requested information as many veterans are homeless or lack the necessary resources. Requiring veterans to complete standardized electronic forms may be even more cumbersome and daunting to veterans, in a system that is already difficult to understand and navigate. While these initiatives may increase the disability claims processing speed, the VA is dramatically increasing the burden on veterans that the VA was designed to serve.

References:

VA to unveil new standardized disability claims forms. The Navy Times, September 24, 2014. http://www.navytimes.com/article/20140924/BENEFITS04/ 309240057/VA-unveil-new-standardized-disability-claims-forms

Druzin, Heath. New Electronic Form to Streamline Chaotic VA Claims Process. Military.com News, September 26, 2014. http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/09/26/new-electronic-form-to-streamline-chaotic-va-claims-process.html

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