I got a call last week from Senator Sherrod Brown's Office. The call was prompted by a Kossack whose son had been helped by the Senator’s office. [Thank you, whoever you are!] The call came from the Cincinnati office. The staff person called about Tom and to offer whatever help the Senator’s office could. She was unaware that the Cleveland office already had the case open. While discussing the case, I asked if the Senator would entertain the possibility of correcting what I think is something patently unfair. Here it is:
From the Bay Citizen:
Veterans in metropolitan areas face longer delays for benefits, Bay Citizen analysis reveals
by Aaron Glantz — August 29, 2012, 12:00 a.m.
So far, change has headed in the wrong direction, despite increased media and political scrutiny. Nationwide, the VA took an average of more than eight months to process a claim in June – about 50 percent longer than the year before. Veterans in New York and North Texas waited the longest, at more than a year on average. Those who appeal a denied claim wait 3½ years for an answer.
Why the dramatic differences? A VA spokesman did not respond to numerous email and telephone inquiries seeking an explanation.
Delays have increased despite a new $300 million computer system and 3,300 claims processors hired since 2010 – 765 of them for additional positions.
The department has pledged to eliminate the claims backlog by 2015, but VA data shows the number of veterans waiting for a decision is growing – to more than 907,000 as of July 30, with 832,000 of them waiting for disability or survivor benefits, while thousands more seek a pension or GI Bill education benefits.
According to the most recent tracking [Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013], nationally there are 821,143 Veterans waiting for Disability review decisions. That’s a 7.4% increase from last year, with an average wait time of 273 days. Nationally there are 587,351 veterans who have waited more than 125 days.
In Cleveland where Tom’s disability was filed in 1971, then again in 1999, and for a 3rd time one year ago this month, there is a backlog of 25,273 claims, up 16.4% over last year, with a wait time of 334 days. Waiting more than 125 days are 18,971 disability claims. Tom’s claim has gone through that hurtle. The claims examiner ignored Tom’s psychiatric hospitalization and continued care since 1971 by saying that the military medical records from Germany were insufficient proof.
Tom now joins 273,714 whose claims have gone to the appeals process. Of that group 14% or 38,320 will be wrongly decided according to the VA. Hosea Roundtree shares Tom’s experience. Before you criticize the claims examiner, watch this YouTube [5:19 minutes long].
The difference between Hosea Roundtree and Tom is that Tom is on dialysis. He is so thin that normal body fat which cushions the impact of the needles required to administer the procedure are very painful. That pain makes him nauseous and the weight he needs to gain is never forthcoming.
How long Tom can last under these conditions is anyone’s guess – but, on average his case will take another 2 ½ years before it is heard. Here is the ugly truth: The VA has no reason to hurry these appeals. Should the veteran die before the case is adjudicated either initially or at the appeals level, the case dies with him. His spouse [and Tom has none] may get something but other heirs get nothing.
That’s just wrong. It is patently unfair. That needs to change. There ought to be a law. If a critically ill Veteran dies while their disability claim is pending an initial decision or if the claim has gone to the appeal level, as is the case with Tom, the case must survive as a part of the Veteran’s estate. There are 38,320 Veterans whose families deserve the chance to get a correct answer. So here’s my plea:
Please ask your Congressman and Senators to sponsor legislation that requires the Veterans Administration to make this change: Should a veteran die before their Veteran's disability case is adjudicated either initially or at the appeals level, the disability case survives as part of the Veteran’s estate.<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
From Richard Cranium:
It’s a sad day when an obscure, oddball 2010 Senate candidate from Delaware (who is NOT Christine O’Donnell) gets the VA benefits claim process workflow about right:
6. Did the veteran die or commit suicide?
- If Yes then the claim is complete.
- If No then go to step 7.
Right now I'm watching Rachel Maddow talk about this: Delay, Deny, Wait till I die