Shorter Appeals

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News May 2014

An increase in the disability appeals process to more than two years is leading Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) to call on Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to refocus efforts and resources to fix the problem.

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The VA’s recent annual performance report shows the average time for a denied claim to be processed through the appeals system rose to 923 days in the 2013 fiscal year. That is 37% over the previous year, McClatchy DC reports.

The average wait time for an appeal has hovered between 500 and 750 days for roughly the past decade. The 2013 performance report outlines a short-term goal of reducing appeals wait times to 650 days and a long-term goal of 400 days.

“Since 2009, the public and Congress’s demand for greater timeliness and efficiency on the front end of the claims process has eclipsed the growing problem on the back end — the increasing number of backlogged appeals,” says Sherman Gillums Jr.,associate executive director of veterans benefits for PVA. “This problem was not exactly unforeseeable, as historically a steady proportion of VA decisions do not get resolved, thus requiring appellate action for final resolution.”

Under pressure from Congress, the public and veterans groups, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has ramped up its productivity in order to eliminate a backlog of nearly 400,000 claims pending for more than 125 days by 2015.

The VA contends the long processing time for appeals isn’t a result of inactivity, but rather the many layers built into the system. The department says it’s continuing to look for ways to make the appeals process more efficient.

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