IAVA Encouraged by New VA Announcement to Expedite Disability Claims

IAVA Encouraged by New VA Announcement to Expedite Disability Claims

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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IAVA Encouraged by New VA Announcement to Expedite Disability Claims
Awaits Details for Implementation and Continues to Call for Comprehensive Plan

NEW YORK (April 19, 2013) — Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) today issued the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a new initiative to begin offering provisional ratings on all disability claims older than one year, based on evidence they have provided. 

“It’s great to see the VA finally taking more immediate and aggressive action to address this important issue for our veterans,” IAVA founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff said. “We are hopeful that this will provide immediate relief for the hundreds of thousands veterans who have been waiting for their claims. We look forward to seeing additional details about implementation from the VA to ensure that veterans are getting the benefits they deserve.”

Rieckhoff added: “Today’s action makes clear that there is more the VA and White House could have done to address the growing backlog earlier. Veterans still need to see a comprehensive plan, need more clarity about their claims, and need Presidential leadership that ultimately will bring the backlog down to zero.”

According to the VA, effective today, claims raters will make provisional decisions on the oldest claims in inventory, which would allow veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits more quickly, if eligible. Veterans will be able to submit additional evidence for consideration a full year after the provisional rating, before VA issues a final decision. More details of the VA announcement can be found here: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2436.

Almost 900,000 veterans nationwide are waiting for disability benefits claims decisions – an average of 273 days. Seventy percent of those veterans have been waiting more than 125 days for decisions and care. 

In recent weeks, there has been a growing drumbeat for action and leadership to reduce the backlog. Today, two members of Congress – Rep. Jackie Speier and Rep. Barbara Lee – are hosting a public forum in the Bay Area, where the Oakland VA has one of the largest backlogs (more than 30,000 claims) with an average wait of 426 days. Returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are filing a first time claim are waiting an average of 642 days in New York, 619 days in Los Angeles, and 542 days in Chicago. 

A number of IAVA members are attending today’s forum in the Bay Area. Said one, Ann Weeby of San Francisco, 32, who served in Iraq and recently joined IAVA for Storm the Hill in Washington as a Leadership Fellow:

“The VA disabilities backlog is the biggest issue facing new veterans that’s preventing them from transitioning on to civilian life — getting health care and compensation for injuries they suffered. They fought for their country. They shouldn’t have to fight for their benefits.”

 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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