When Time is More than Money: Waiting for VA Benefits

As of August 22, 2015, the average length of time to complete a fully developed claim (FDC) for VA benefits was 141.1 days.  What does “fully developed” mean?  It means all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed.  It means all the evidence supporting the claim is filed when the claim is initiated, there’s no additional evidence, and it’s filed electronically.  So it takes a bit of work at the front end, but you can shave almost 50 days off the process.

Waiting for Veteran Benefits

Suppose you’re able to get all the documents together and then have a Veterans Service Officer look it over and help you file your claim for VA benefits.  You’re looking at 141 days which is about 20 weeks, or just over 4.5 months.  And that’s the best case scenario which doesn’t count the time you spent getting all the evidence together.

Now consider this: you entered the military before going to school.  When you finish your three years (or more), your peers who stayed home and went to school are either graduating or close to it.  And then the gap widens exponentially as they make their way into the working world at a higher level while you’re still struggling with a difficult transition.

This doesn’t even take into account the high probability that you came home with an injury, PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injury).  And those factors will make those 4.5 months you wait seem much longer than they really are.  At the end of it, you’re probably another six months behind.  That brings us to over 4 years. Quite a gap at that time of life.

My point here is not to complain about the VA, but rather to look at the real cost to the men and women who choose to serve in our military. In fact, the backlog of claims for VA benefits has been reduced to under 100,0000 and the claims process is picking up speed. Still, bundled with the upheaval of transition and the likelihood of visible and/or invisible injury, any kind of delay in restarting a life seems like a heavy price.  It would be awesome if we could make the benefits match the sacrifice, but it seems like the least we could do is not waste months on top of 3 or more years. Playing catch-up in any arena is stressful.  It’s particularly hard on these young returning veterans. We’ve done a lot to improve the processing of VA benefits claims.  Let’s do more.

If you know a veteran who needs help, pass along our Lifeline for Vets: 888.777.4443.

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About the Author

Shad Meshad

As a U.S. Army Medical Service Officer in Vietnam in 1970, Shad Meshad began pioneering treatment techniques for what would later become known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is the founder of the National Veterans Foundation and founder and co-author of the VA’s Vet Center Program.


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