Researchers with the Department of Epidemiology at Rutgers, the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, and the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health located at the New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers (State University of New Jersey) reviewed published reports of health, health care utilization, and social isolation relevant to US Veterans denied VA disability compensation. “Among 122 research items initially reviewed, a total of 47 met our inclusion criteria” and were summarized, the authors note.
Amongst the goals of the study authors: address a generally held consensus that veterans who are denied disability benefits are healthier than those veterans who are actually awarded and receive benefits.
Instead, the study authors concluded that those veterans who are denied VA disability benefits are just as ill as those veterans who are successful in achieving benefits, and might even be sicker with what were described as critical and unmet health needs.
The study was released this month and summarized in Military Medicine (10/15), a publication of The Society of Federal Health Professionals (AMSUS). In its release, the study paints a bleak picture of veterans benefits - who receives them, who doesn’t and the wait times by which applicants are restricted.
The study authors concluded: “Compared to veterans ‘awarded’ VA disability compensation, those ‘denied’ have poorer health, use less VA health care, and may experience social isolation.” The study authors concluded that “Veterans ‘denied’ VA disability compensation may comprise a vulnerable subgroup of veterans in need of supportive services.”
As part of the disabled veteran’s benefits study, the authors summarized the process involved in applying for veteran’s benefits. “A veteran seeking VA disability compensation benefits must first file a claim. In evaluating the claim, a review team gathers medical and military service-related evidence,” write the study authors. “In the process, the VA confirms the current disability, and subsequently determines whether the existing disability is linked to military service. If so, the VA assigns a combined disability rating and establishes a date of award with payment based on the rating. For those veterans awarded service connection, the VA can grant a full award, or a partial award. If no service connection is found, the claim is denied.”
The study also provides a snapshot of wait times and the adjudication process.
“The VA disability compensation adjudication process, which begins with an application and ends with either an initial decision or a decision in response to an appeal, can be onerous,” write the study authors. “In 2011, the average claims processing time was 197 days; whereas the average appeals processing time was 747 days.”
That’s a little over two years at the average. Reality suggests claims can drag on for many years beyond that, and sometimes decades, as we have written previously.
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The VA compensation study concludes, in part: “The broad picture of veterans ‘denied’ VA disability compensation that emerges from available data shows them, compared to those ‘awarded,’ to have comparative poor health, lower VA health service utilization, as well as greater poverty, unemployment, and social isolation.”
The study is “Health and Health Care Service Utilization Among U.S. Veterans Denied VA Service-Connected Disability Compensation: A Review of the Literature.” Authors are D.A. Fried, D. Helmer, W.E. Halperin, M. Passannante, and B.K. Holland.