WASHINGTON -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is changing the way veterans file disability claims, in the hopes of speeding up the process.
The new system, which introduces standardized electronic forms for veterans to fill out, is aimed at streamlining a chaotic process that had led to delays in handling claims and appeals. In the past, veterans could file claims and appeals on any piece of paper, which often caused delays because of missing information, according to a VA news release.
"We must do everything that we can to make it as fast and easy as possible for veterans and their survivors to file for and receive an accurate decision on their claim," VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a press release.
The VA is also standardizing the intent-to-file form -- after veterans or survivors submit that form, they have one year to gather documentation and evidence for the claim.
The new regulations go into effect in late March.
Lauren Augustine, legislative associate for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said veterans groups have long been pushing for such a change.
"We view it as a move in the right direction to creating an efficient process," she said.
The VA has come under heavy criticism in recent months for its treatment of veterans amid a health care scandal that included hospital administrators falsifying records and patients dying while on secret wait lists. McDonald has promised vast reforms to the VA, including major changes by Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day.