Friday, January 30, 2009

Veterans Groups Call for Incoming Secretary of Veterans Affairs to Cut Through Disability Benefits “Red Tape”

Veterans Groups Call for Incoming Secretary of Veterans Affairs to Cut Through Disability Benefits “Red Tape”

News: Veterans Groups Call for Incoming Secretary of Veterans Affairs to Cut Through Disability Benefits “Red Tape”
Posted on January 29, 2009 by gm

Letter to VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki Urges Swift Action to Deliver Lifeline to More Than 600,000 American Heroes

WASHINGTON, DC (January 29, 2009) – As General Eric Shinseki takes office as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, two veterans service organizations representing more than 63,000 veterans called upon the incoming Presidential Cabinet member to move quickly to deliver disability benefits to America’s veterans.

In a letter to Secretary Shinseki, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW) raised concern about a growing epidemic among America’s veteran community. More than 600,000 men and women, who served this nation honorably, often with great personal sacrifice, have been forced to endure excessive delays in receiving the disability benefits they have earned due to a service-connected disability.

Disability benefits are not only an entitlement – but an essential lifeline – for many veterans, and the failure to provide them in a timely way has had terrible consequences. Sadly, this backlog will only increase as more of the 1.7 million troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan become eligible for benefits.

In his confirmation hearings Secretary Shinseki expressed a desire to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs to a 21st Century Organization that is people-centric, results-driven, and forward-looking. Additionally, General Shinseki pointed out the need to “streamline the disability claims system, increase quality, timeliness and consistency of claims processing…”

“It is critically important that Secretary Shinseki deliver on his promise to transform the VA and speed up the delivery of disability benefits to America’s veterans, because everyone agrees that benefits delayed are essentially benefits denied,” said John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America. “Behind each of the 600,000 claims awaiting response from the VA is a veteran who once proudly wore our nation’s uniform. These men and women served with honor and they simply want the benefits to which they are entitled.”

Documenting the wide-reaching impacts of disability benefit delays, the VVA and VMW’s letter summarizes the tragic consequences of the VA’s failure to treat America’s disabled veterans with dignity. These consequences extend beyond the individual veteran to spouses, children, and other family members who suffer from the stress and economic burden caused by the failure to award their veteran husbands, wives, parents, sons and daughters the benefits that they need to survive.

“Our most recent veterans are hit especially hard by delays in disability benefits,” said Julie Mock, National President, Veterans of Modern Warfare. “Delays in awarding disability benefits increase the suffering of veterans already struggling with an inability to cope, as the seemingly endless wait for the VA to make a final decision on a claim magnifies the alienation and anxiety they experience. As a consequence, there is a substantial increase in the number of broken families, cases of homelessness, and depression caused by the failure to provide disability benefits on a timely basis.”

VVA and VMW are taking action to Band-Aid a disability claims system that the General Accountability Office and the Congress have, on numerous occasions, deemed broken. These organizations are suing the VA in Washington, D.C. federal court. The groups have asked the Court to impose a 90-day deadline for decisions on initial claims for disability benefits, and resolve appeals of those decisions within 180 days, as a way to force the VA to act promptly. If the VA fails to meet these standards, VVA and VMW requested that the Judge order the VA to provide interim monetary payments equivalent to a disability rating of 30 percent to those veterans whose claims have been delayed as a minimal lifeline of support when it is most needed.

The VA acknowledges that it takes at least six months to reach an initial decision on an average benefits claim; in its federal lawsuit, the VVA and VMW assert that the delay is actually a year or more. While veterans await resolution on their claims, they receive no benefits whatsoever from the VA. Moreover, appeals of initial decisions average more than four years, with some stretching 10 years or more. More than half of those appeals, when finally heard, result in reversals of benefits denials.

Visit to learn more about the VVA and VMW lawsuit. To obtain a copy of the letter delivered to Secretary Shinseki contact Robin Crawford at 202-974-5025 or via email at


My own claim is in it's seventh year of appeals and I am far from finished.

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