As VA works to eliminate one backlog, one more might emerge

By Jared Serbu Over the past several months, the Department of Veterans Affairs has taken several steps to dig out of a large backlog of disability claims, including imposing mandatory overtime for its employees and a new strategy to tackle the oldest claims first. But VA’s congressional overseers say it appears the increased attention to new claims is forcing another critical part of the department’s workload, the process by which veterans appeal VA’s denial of their original claims, to take a backseat, and creating a new backlog that Congress can’t reliably track. The complex, multi-step process involved in handling appeals by veterans who believe they were wrongfully denied benefits has seen a notable workload increase this year. In 2012, VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals handled 49,600 appeals. In 2013, it’s already seen 37,000. It expects the number to climb to 54,000 and perhaps up to 100,000 by four years from now. And even today, veterans who appeal their decisions are waiting a very long time for a final answer. The board’s most recent report, covering fiscal year 2012, said it took an average of 1,040 days between the time a veteran submitted an appeal at a regional office and the board’s final decision. And that’s only the second step in the three-step process, the final one of which is the Federal Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Full Story

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In furtherance of our firm’s culture of commitment to always act with compassion, concern and commitment to our clients, community and colleagues, we have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligations while prioritizing health, wellness and safety of all we can.

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This pandemic is unlike anything any of us have faced in our lifetimes, and while we can continue to emotionally support one another through it all, staying home and keeping your distance is vital to the health and wellness of our communities. It does not feel good to break routines, cancel events and retreat from our normal, day-to-day socializing, but let us remember that, in times of strife, prior generations were asked to go to war and we are simply being asked to stay home. Your isolation equals more lives saved, and more time for medical providers to prepare for the treatment of patients battling COVID-19.

When the dust settles, we will join together with a greater appreciation for our lives, local businesses, loved ones and health. Until then, we will continue to offer guidance from a safe distance.

Very truly yours,

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