VA Announces Partnership with Veterans Organizations to Provide Veterans Benefits Faster
Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits Barry Jesinoski, DAV Executive Director James E. Koutz, national commander of The American Legion
For years, Veterans Service Organizations have helped Veterans navigate the claims process at VA, and their ability to assist Veteran claimants is about to take a big leap forward. Currently over 40% of Veterans filing disability claims do so without any assistance. Did you know that you can receive trusted, free counsel on your benefits claims from VSOs, each of which has nearly 100 years of Veterans law and best practices at their fingertips? Working with these VSOs to provide Fully Developed Claims can significantly cut the time it takes to process benefits.
Today we are announcing that the Department of Veterans Affairs is joining together with VSOs, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) and The American Legion to start, to accelerate disability benefits for Veterans. Our effort—the Fully Developed Claims Community of Practice—will play a major role in helping VA to process accurate claims within 125 days and end the backlog in 2015.
The Fully Developed Claims program is the most effective way to ensure a Veteran's claim never reaches the backlog—and is the basis for the FDC Community of Practice. We are confident that this community will grow as more learn of its benefits.
Currently, it takes VA more than 200 days to gather evidence that may already be in the Veteran's possession, like private medical records. That's too long. We want to make sure Veterans know how to best prepare their claim up front with all supporting documentation.
A Fully Developed Claim offers Veterans and survivors faster decisions on their VA compensation, pension and survivor benefit claims. The FDC program provides a channel for Veterans Service Organizations to work with Veterans to identify up front all evidence necessary to support a Veteran's claim. Veterans then certify that they have no additional evidence to submit—and VA can process the claim in half the time it takes for a traditional claim which needs evidence gathering.
The American Legion and DAV understand the power of an FDC and have therefore helped design this new FDC initiative. Together, we identified potential stumbling blocks and opportunities in the program so we can mutually train our people – VA claims processors and VSO advocates. Based on their support, The American Legion and DAV are founding partners with VA in this Community of Practice. As other Veterans' advocates commit, like DAV and The American Legion have, to increase their FDC submissions, progress in getting Veterans faster decisions will be felt by all.
VA and the VSOs truly want what is best for the brave men and women who have served our country, and we are joined together by our common belief that no Veteran or survivor should wait extensive periods of time for the benefits they've earned.
As we continue our partnership, we invite other Veterans' advocates, Veterans Service Officers and Organizations, local posts and chapters to partner with us and join our Community of Practice. All that's needed is a commitment to submit an increased number of FDCs. By leveraging each other's experience, knowledge and opportunities, we can build a dynamic community of advocates committed to providing Veterans with their earned benefits in support of VA's goal of eliminating the backlog.