Can The New Decision Ready Claims Process Work For You?
Today the VA announced their new Decision Ready Claim (DRC) initiative which they say promises to deliver faster disability claim decisions to veterans. In fact, their press release says that "veterans who choose to submit their claim under DRC can expect to receive a decision within 30 days from the time VA receives the claim."
To those of us who waited months or years for the VA to make a decision on a disability claim this sounds too good to be true. Let's check out the details to see if this is as good as it sounds.
Types Of Disability Claims
Normally there are 3 types of disability claims veterans file with the VA:
- A pre-discharge claim, submitted before leaving active duty. This can speed up receipt of benefits.
- An initial claim for disability submitted after leaving the service. This makes up the majority of VA's disability claims.
- A claim for an increase in and existing disability. This amounts for about 30% of all the disability claims.
Let's just look at #3, the claim for increase in disability, since the DRC 30 day timeline is currently limited to only those types of claims.
Filing For Increased Disability
Veterans can file for increased disability benefits if they have a service-connected disability that gets worse. For example, if their limited range use of a knee due to a service-related injury decreases.
If a veteran decides to file for increased disability, they have to prove to the VA that the condition is worse than it was previously rated. This is usually done by visiting a VA doctor or by visiting a civilian doctor and sending the VA copies of the civilian doctor's findings.
If the VA doesn't get all the paperwork they need it can seriously delay the decision. That is why the Fully Developed Claim program was created in 2013.
Under the Fully Developed Claim process the VA recommends veterans work with a Veterans Service Organization (VSO), such as the American Legion, VFW, PVA, DAV, etc. to make sure all the proper paperwork is filed. The VA says this process greatly cuts down on the amount of time it takes them to make a decision because the VSO knows what paperwork the VA needs to decide a claim. The VSO makes sure everything is taken care of.
However, the VA's most recent performance data shows that Fully Developed Claims take an average of 109 days to process, compared with the 120 days for a normal claim. Not much of a difference.
The new DRC process is similar to the Fully Developed Claim process, but the veteran must do more prep work before submitting the claim.
Under the new DRC, veterans must work with a VSO to help them get together all the necessary paperwork, and they must have their comp exam with a VA doctor before submitting their claim. The claim is submitted electronically by the VSO directly to the VA rating specialist, bypassing the waiting line at the local VA office.
So, the main difference between the Fully Developed Claim and the DRC is that veterans are required to work with a VSO to make sure the paperwork is all lined up, and they must visit a VA doctor who can verify the extent of the disability before a claim is even filed.
So, lets to the math. Taking the current 120 day national average for VA to process a disability claim and subtracting the average waiting time of 15 - 45 days to get a comp exam with the VA (according to VA's Access To Care website) this looks like a pretty amazing promise. Not sure it adds up, but the VA says it will work.
Yes, veterans are required to work with a VSO, yes the 30 day clock doesn't start until after the comp exam and all the paperwork is filed, but this is a pretty bold move by the VA. If it works as advertised I will be impressed, and jealous. It took me over 120 days to get a decision on my increased disability just 1 year ago, if the VA can do what they say, it will be a real improvement for today's veterans.