Vietnam veteran Paul Troop, honors his fallen comrades while at the World War II Memorial on Veterans Day in Washington, Nov. 11, 2013.(Reuters)
The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to change the decades-old way in which veterans file for disability claims -- and it has veterans advocacy groups outraged.
The VA has proposed mandating the use of standardized forms for filing claims. The current rules allow veterans to submit claims in a variety of ways, including a simple handwritten note.
The moment a veteran contacts the VA to claim a disability, whether it be via email or a handwritten note, that becomes the starting point for retroactive pay should the claim be approved.
But the VA wants to get rid of this so-called "informal claim process," requiring veterans to register online or fully complete a standard handwritten form. Retroactive pay would be received starting at the date the form is fully completed -- meaning the clock won't start ticking for partially complete handwritten forms, as it does now.
Representatives from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars say this is a "seismic change" that will hurt veterans. They say it rewards those who use the Internet, essentially creating classes among veterans.
"We have concerns because the average age of the American veteran is 64 years old and the 2010 census reported that 55 percent of Americans 65 and older do not have regular access to the Internet," said Zachary Hearn, deputy director of benefits for the American Legion.