FILE: Nov. 11, 2008: US soldiers of Combined Security Transition Command salute during a Veterans Day ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan.Reuters
WASHINGTON – For veterans seeking disability compensation, the application process is supposed to be so easy that a handwritten note on a napkin will initiate a claim or an appeal. A proposed rule from the Obama administration would change that, and veterans groups are sounding the alarm.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says the many ways that requests for disability compensation arrive actually hamper its ability to administer benefits, and they contribute to a claims backlog that has about 400,000 veterans waiting more than 125 days for a decision.
At times, workers spend so much time trying to figuring out what's being claimed and trading letters with applicants that it's slowing down decisions for everyone.
The VA's solution: Require veterans to use a standard form when they file for disability compensation -- or appeal a decision, and throw in some incentives for those who use a computer.
The response to the proposed rule from the nation's major veterans groups?
"Draconian" and "heavy-handed," said the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "A seismic change" that will "poison" the disability claims process, said the American Legion. "The most serious, egregious attack on a veteran-friendly disability claim system in VA history," declared the law firm of Bergmann & Moore, which specializes in pursuing disability claims.
The critiques recently submitted in response to the proposed regulation point to one of the sharpest policy disagreements that veteran groups have had with the Obama administration.
Both camps have generally agreed on the need to transform how disability claims are managed; namely, the need to move to a computer system instead of relying on paper records to track a veteran's injuries, illnesses and service.