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VA to Shorten Benefit Enrollment Program Window to Expedite Claims

FILE -- A service member shelves patient medical records at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. March 26, 2009. (Photo by Senior Airman Kasey Zickmund)
FILE -- A service member shelves patient medical records at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. March 26, 2009. (Photo by Senior Airman Kasey Zickmund)

Servicemembers will have less time to claim disability compensation before leaving the military but should get benefits faster under changes being made by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Starting Oct. 1, troops who want to resolve disability claims before leaving the military must enroll in the "Benefits Delivery at Discharge" program 90 days from separation rather than the current 60 days, the VA announced this month.

Quick Start, a program launched in 2008 that allows troops with 59 or fewer days left to begin their claims process, will also end, the VA office at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, told Stars and Stripes this week.

"The VA's goal is to process disability claims for those leaving active duty so they have a decision on their claim the day after they leave," manager Thomas Gwaltney said.

Late-filed claims mean veterans will be waiting an average of 90 days after separation to get a decision on benefits, he said.

"Many claims are not complete when servicemembers leave active duty," Gwaltney said. "Submitting disability claims between 90 and 180 days before separation will ensure claims can be fully developed."

Troops enrolling in the benefits program will need to be at their duty station for 45 days after enrolling to make sure they can attend medical exams, said Yongsan VA representative Steve Tucker.

Those who miss the deadline can still file claims through the VA's "eBenefits" program after they leave the military, but might have to wait 18 months for a resolution, he said.

A smarter option is to file a claim while still in uniform, Tucker said.

"By filing here and getting their exams done they can ensure they receive their disability claim right after separating," he said.

Related Topics

Headlines Veteran Benefits Military Benefits VA Claims and Appeals Disabled Veterans Veteran Discounts

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