“It’s frustrating to be stuck in limbo,” said Conley Monk, the lead plaintiff in the disabled veterans benefits lawsuit.“It has been nearly two years since I began my initial appeal by filing a Notice of Disagreement and electing a Decision Review Officer hearing in July 2013, and the VA has still not decided my case.” The combat veteran noted that while waiting for his benefits to come through, he lost his home to fire and is continuing to suffer from significant medical problems, partly stemming from a botched VA surgery, or so it is alleged.
“I strongly support action to reform this broken appeals system because justice delayed for these veterans is justice denied, unconscionably and unacceptably,” explained Senator Blumenthal (D-CT), ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“I hear from hundreds of veterans whose benefit appeals have languished for months, even years. The VA needs to improve and enhance its processing of appeals from denial of critical benefit applications. I support more resources and additional staff who will expedite these benefit applications and appeals.”
The VA continues to tout gradual improvements in wait times for processing benefits on behalf of veterans. However, veterans’ advocates continue to decry the status quo as woefully inadequate for servicemen and women who continue to suffer without needed benefits. Advocates note that veterans stepped up in the face of conflict, serving their country and carrying out their orders while faced with a constant risk to their personal health and well-being.
They say it is time for Veterans Affairs to step up to the plate and match the commitment and dedication of veterans in times of conflict, by caring for them adequately post-conflict.
A recent investigation by National Public Radio found that numerous veterans, who continue to suffer health problems from Agent Orange, are continuing to wait for benefits years and even decades after the fact - if they haven’t already fallen through the cracks completely, or died while waiting.
“Mr. Monk brings this suit for himself and thousands of other veterans pursuing an initial appeal who do not have the resources to file a federal lawsuit to compel the VA to act,” said Julia Shu, a law student intern in the Yale law clinic. “The only legal option for a veteran whose initial appeal languishes in the VA system is expensive and time-consuming. Each veteran must retain legal counsel and apply individually to CAVC to request a court order that the VA decide his or her case. System-wide delays persist when the CAVC does not resolve an issue for all affected veterans in one decision.”
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“This [VA lawsuit] is novel because judges of the Court have repeatedly recognized their power to adjudicate a class action-type case, but in the history of the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, they have yet to do so,” said Will Hudson. “This is an appropriate case to recognize the first collective action and to bring relief to these veterans who should not be expected to wait any longer.”
Case information for the VA compensation lawsuit was not available.