Why Are Wait Times on Appeals So Long?In 2015, the average processing time for appeals was just over three years! For board appeals, veterans are, on average, waiting at least five years or more for a decision. Why does this take so long? Unlike other government appeals, the VA allows new evidence to be added at any point during the appeal process. When this happens, the VA reevaluates the claim from the beginning with the new evidence, even if a decision (or two, or more) has already been made in the appeal. Instead of moving through the list of appeals, a review officer may have to review the same appeal several times to consider new evidence and issue yet another decision. On average, appeals that reach the board already have two additional decisions beyond the original decision being appealed. For those that have been remanded, there may be even more.
Why Has There Been an Increase in Appeals over the Last Several Years?Historically, between 11 and 12 percent of all VA claims are appealed, with roughly 4 to 5 percent appealed to the board. The reason there has been an increase in appeals is because record numbers of claims have been filed with the VA. For the past six years, the VA has received more than one million claims annually, and the amount of claims received in the past four years has been record-breaking. With the number of claims rising each year, the number of appeals has also increased in proportion.
Justice Delayed is Justice DeniedAs a veteran, you deserve better than to have the benefits you need delayed or denied. The complexity and length of the appeals process is not only frustrating, it is a reflection of the brokenness of the system. The VA has taken considerable heat for these shortcomings in recent years, and rightfully so – now, it is the administration’s responsibility to come up with a plan to fix the problem.
According to VA employee and blogger Catherine Trombley, it is time for a modern appeals system that puts the needs, expectations, and interests of our nation’s veterans first. Comprehensive legislative reform is needed to transform the process into one that functions in an efficient and timely manner. The VA secretary has called on members of Congress, Veterans service organizations, and other stakeholders to meet with the VA to discuss how to improve the process and implement an effective solution. The meeting is set for later this month.