Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs takes a very long time when processing VA claims. In 2006, the average time to process a VA claim through regional offices was 127 days. More than four months! How horrible would it be to wait four months only to be denied veterans benefits?
This isn’t a new problem, either. A VA employee testified to the GAO about veterans claims in 2002, saying that it was a long-standing issue and that “this isn’t a problem that snuck up on them.” The VA is well aware that veterans of World War II are dying at a high rate while they try to wait out delays in processing their VA claims.
Many veterans who have had to go through the process and been denied veterans benefits end up so frustrated that they start to believe long delays are just a part of dealing with veterans claims. And they’re not the only ones. Veterans’ advocates and even members of Congress have complained, but so far the problem just seems to be getting worse. In 2003, the average processing time was 111 days, which means that there was an increase of 16 days in just three years. Sadly, experts believe it’s only going to become a bigger problem as veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars file more claims to an already slow system.
Why Is the VA Claims Process So Bad?
You might not like the answer. One would like to think that we would put our best and brightest in charge of VA claims in order to help the proud men and women dedicating their lives to protecting our country, but performance tests have not shown this to be the case.
In one presentation to Congress, a VA official said that they gave a job skill certification test to 650 of their VA claims adjudicators (GS 10s and GS 11s), and the results were not promising. Only 25 percent of the GS 10s and 29 percent of the GS 11s were able to pass the test. In short, part of the reason claims take so long is because VA employees don’t know how to do their jobs.
The only silver lining in this debacle is that if you are denied veterans benefits, there’s a good chance it was due to the error in the process – not you. Because of this, a high number of denials are overturned by experienced VA claims attorneys, and many veterans are ultimately given the benefits they deserve. Still, that’s no excuse for having the problem in the first place. For the sake of our armed servicemen and women, training has to get better, and the entire VA claims process needs to improve.