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Extra disability pay promised for vets who submit more complete claims

Aug. 2, 2013 - 03:45PM   |  
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The Veterans Affairs Department has launched a unique incentive program for disabled veterans that will potentially provide up to one year of extra disability compensation if a benefits claim is submitted with almost all of the information required for processing.

The incentive program, created by Congress, will apply to what VA calls “fully developed” claims submitted from Aug. 6, 2013, through Aug. 5, 2015.

Only original claims qualify for retroactive payments. Supplemental claims for those already receiving disability pay would not qualify, although fully developed supplemental claims are encouraged by VA.

Retroactive pay would be provided if VA determines that all essential information is present — basically everything short of a medical examination and official documents that VA will help a veteran get — and decides the veteran has a compensable service-connected disability.

For a claim to be considered fully developed, a veteran must certify he has provided all the information he has available in regards to his service, disability, and the link between the two. This would include records of military service and any related private medical records. The veteran must agree to and keep an appointment for a VA medical examination.

The promise of retroactive pay is a change from traditional policy, which sets the effective date for compensation as the date when a claim is filed. Until now, the only incentive for filing a fully developed claim was that VA officials said the claim could be processed in about half of the time of a standard claim. That would mean it would take about 90 days, on average, for the claim to be decided.

Veterans can get help filing a fully developed claim from many veterans service organizations and local veterans service officers. They can also file the claim themselves using a checklist available once they log in at the eBenefits site.

Veterans may need outside help because they may need to submit documents, which requires scanning and uploading material, VA officials said earlier this year in a briefing for reporters.

In a statement, Allison Hickey, VA’s undersecretary for benefits, said the change “means more money in eligible veterans’ pockets” and will help reduce the pile of pending claims.

As of July 27, VA had 785,899 pending benefits claims, with 64 percent older than the 125-day processing deadline. However, only 272,003 of the pending claims were first-time applications. The bulk are supplemental claims to increase disability ratings.

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