It seems, however, that even an endorsement from the White House is not enough, given the backlog of claims: no fewer than 440,000 veterans are still awaiting decisions on their veterans benefits. Making a bad situation even worse, writes Jackson in a blog on the official White House website, is the fact that any new information on a claimant’s health submitted to Veterans Affairs (VA) causes the appeals process for that file to start over, from the beginning.
Jackson, who served from 1980 through 1983 and suffers from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), writes that he first filed for VA disability in 2001.
Fifteen years later, he has yet to receive benefits.
Admittedly, there was a hiccup along the way that delayed his case even further: when Jackson was initially denied (as most claims appear to be), he lacked any knowledge and supports to file an appeal, and therefore dropped his application. “I submitted several letters from VA doctors as evidence to back up my claim,” Jackson writes on the official website of the Obama Administration. “These doctors agreed that my injuries happened while on active duty, and are service-related, yet my claim was still denied. I didn’t know what to do. I had no help, and barely knew how to file an appeal, so I let it go.”
However, the single father of two tried a second time, and after securing some advice from other veterans, filed an appeal for his VA benefits in 2011 - ten years after he was first denied.
That was five years ago. He’s still waiting for an answer.
“When I call to check on my status, they always tell me that it has just been assigned to someone, or that they are working on it,” he writes.
“The biggest issue is that whenever I submit new evidence, my case basically goes back to the start of the process. So, the worse my conditions get, the further away I get from someone making a final decision on my claim.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Jackson is serving as an advocate for the Obama Administration’s effort to streamline the appeals process to ensure that the initial claim is preserved in the face of new information, rather then re-starting the process all over again - adding layer upon layer of delays to the appeals process and thus, chronically delaying the release of VA disability benefits to deserving service personnel.
READ MORE VA DISABILITY LEGAL NEWS
The goal of the proposal, if passed, is to see the one-year approval time frame in place by 2021.
Advocates of veterans waiting years for needed VA disability benefits note the disconnect between service personnel enlisting and putting their lives on hold to serve their country in an immediate capacity, and the years-long wait to receive appropriate benefits for injuries endured while serving.
It has left many a veteran with no other option than to file a VA disability lawsuit, in an attempt to achieve some form of justice, and just a little much-needed help…