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Older Veterans Battling More Than Just VA When It Comes To Disability Claims Backlog

By: Chinh Doan Email
By: Chinh Doan Email

CENTRAL TEXAS (March 31, 2013)--Younger veterans may have an advantage over the older ones when it comes to getting their disability claims processed amid a backlog of claims in what many say shouldn't be a competition.

From 2010 to 2012, the total pending VA disability claims has more than doubled, while the backlog has more than quadrupled.

Currently the average wait time for getting a decision on a VA claim is 18 to 24 months, but younger vets may have an advantage.

Jim Richmond with the Texas Veterans Commission said older vets were not given as many resources about the claims system compared to the ones today.

Coast Guard veteran Jacqueline English, 52, described her relationship with the current VA claims system as "disastrous."

English said she has trouble walking due to her service in the military.

She served in the Coast Guard in the 70s and has waited more than two years for her claim to be processed.

"How I found out was through talking to veterans down the line like several years later," English said.

Plus, older vets didn't have technology back then to help them keep track of their medical records and health problems.

"There's very specific guidelines for a case to fit into the fully-developed claim process, and if something happens after it gets in there, that will pull it out of the fully-developed process," Richmond said.

The lack of information increases the chance for older vets to have issues with their paperwork, which then affects vets young and old waiting to have their claims processed.

Older vets are in a long line with younger ones who are filing more medical conditions than ever.

Corey Kittle got out of the Army about a month ago and, like English, he is waiting to have his claim processed.

He said his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan left him with health problems like sleep apnea and injured ankles, wrists, knees.

"It's disheartening to think that we may be actually be competing with each other to get our benefits taken care of," Kittle said.

Another disadvantage for older vets compared to younger ones is record keeping for their claims, according to Richmond.

"Information flow is phenomenally better, record keeping is easier because of technology, and it's like comparing apples to oranges when going about finding evidence for claims," Richmond said.

A VA spokesperson said it's making changes, like going paperless and hopes to cut the wait to about 125 days by 2015.


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