From our News Partners at WCBD-TV:
It’s a story we told you about over a month ago, about veteran whistleblower Albert North, he claims it’s taken him almost 4 years to get answers about money he says he is owed. On Wednesday, News 2’s Megan Dice traveled to the VA Regional Office in Columbia, South Carolina, to get some answers on the process.
When asked if 4 years is an adequate time for someone like Mr. North to get a claim for a shoulder he says is not at 100%, Leanne Weldin, Director of Benefits for U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Regional office said “It’s an appeal not a rating claim, but I understand and agree with you, 4 years is an unacceptable length of time.”
Weldin says there has been an increase in claims from veterans who used to claim 1 or 2 issues, now claiming upwards of 15- 20 issues, a lengthy appeals process, and a former paper filing system.. and it’s slowing the process.
The VA has a national backlog of claims, around 275,000, meaning any claims older than 125 average days pending. That’s the benchmark for Congress on what is considered unacceptable.
The total inventory of claims: Around 800,000 in July of 2012, now stands at around 500,000.
How many claims per person do they have? Weldin says a ratings specialist making medical decisions can make about 3 to 4 rating decisions per day.
“We put out over a million claims a year, so that’s about 100,000 appeals a year, and it’s oftentimes a two-to-four-to-six year process because of the way that regulations and the law is written.”
The VA started converting paper files into electronic claims in 2012, and in the fall they will be rolling out a national electronic work que, with offices across the country working on claims based on work load.
“We can’t be territorial as state directors within a regional office anymore. I have to look out for the agency and for all our veterans and we have to improve as an agency.”
If you would like to file a claim electronically, you can head to va.gov, follow the link to benefits or you can call 1-800-827-1000 to be mailed a form for the expedited claims process.
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