Posts Tagged ‘Department of Veterans Affairs’

Veterans Disability Claims Backlog Reduced By 44 Percent Since 2013

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was proud to announce that his department had effectively reduced the claims backlog by 44 percent since March 2013. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which handles veterans’ disability claim processing, had been under a backlog of more than 600,000 claims last year.

Thanks to new processing initiatives, mandatory overtime, and encouraging Fully Developed Claims (FDC), the VA has reduced its queue of claims to be process down to 344,000, a reduction of 267,000 claims in a single year. During this period, accuracy of claim processing also improved, reducing the average wait time for a claim decision by 119 days.

The claim backlog is created when veterans have to wait more than 125 days for a decision on their disability benefits claim. The backlog was created in large part from the need to reevaluate 150,000 previously decided cases from Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. In addition to these reevaluated cases, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and certain leukemias were added to the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange, adding a new batch of Vietnam veterans to apply for service-connected disability.

In 2010 the VA established a goal of eliminating the backlog and reaching a 98 percent accuracy rate by 2015. This would mean that all new claims would have a decision within 125 days of submission and there would be little need for reevaluation or appeal of decisions due to errors. The current processing methods have improved in the last few years with a new sorting procedure helping separate Fully Developed Claims (FDC) from claims that need additional documentation and information to be processed.

As the VA prioritizes the FDCs and claims from veterans in need such as homeless or terminally ill veterans, claim processors are able to issue decisions on claims faster than before. This is partially thanks to the new paperless systems that have replaced traditional paper filing, reducing waste and making file transmission almost instantaneous. The VA has also increased the amount of staff processing claims and implemented mandatory overtime with priority given to the oldest claims in the queue.

The best way to help prevent your claim from falling into the backlog is to have it fully developed the first time you submit your files. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is here to help disabled veterans fully develop their claims and appeal an unfavorable decision should their claim be denied or under-funded. Contact us today for more information about how we can help 1-888-234-5758.

VA Issues New Grants and Initiatives to Assist Homeless and Disabled Veterans

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently announced several new grant programs and a memorial benefit initiative which will impact the lives of thousands of veterans.

On July 10 it was announced that transportation initiatives would be improved in several rural areas thanks to a new grant program to support state Veterans Service Agencies and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). Eligible groups may apply for grants up to $50,000 to be used to improve transportation resources for veterans living in highly rural areas.

Shortly after this announcement, the VA released details of a new housing grant program that would allocate $300 million in grants to private, non-profit organizations that provide services to low-income veteran families facing homelessness. The grants were awarded to 319 community agencies across the nation and are expected to assist approximately 120,000 veterans.

An additional initiative has come to fruition for veterans living in Puerto Rico. The VA recently acquired 247.4 acres of land in Morovis, PR to establish a new cemetery for burial of servicemembers and their spouses and eligible dependent children. The existing Puerto Rico National Cemetery will cease new casketed interments in 2022 and could not be expanded due to surrounding residential and commercial development.

All military personnel who are harmed or killed in active duty, as well as all veterans with an honorable discharge, are typically eligible for all general military benefits. It is important to follow up with the VA to determine all of the benefits you are entitled to such as health care, housing assistance, and burial rights.

Servicemembers who are injured in combat, or veterans who develop health conditions connected to their time in service, are often eligible to collect veterans disability benefits. If you are a disabled veteran seeking benefits from the VA, the veterans disability attorneys at The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. are here to help; contact us today 1-888-234-5758.

New Hotline for Female Veterans Helps Access to Resources

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Disabled female veterans are becoming a larger percentage of the veteran population. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), there were approximately 2.2 million women veterans, some of whom require medical care through the VA system for service-connected disabilities.

A new hotline, 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) has opened to provide important information about veterans’ benefits, health care, and other resources and services. The hotline links female veterans, their families, and caregivers to valuable resources following their military service.

While disabled female veterans benefit greatly from this service from the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is open to all female veterans regardless of disability status. The operators can connect callers to various VA branches to assist with issues such as:

  • health care appointments;
  • education resources;
  • veterans’ burial services; and
  • benefit application status.

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers many services for disabled veterans that specifically target the needs of female veterans. In 2010 the VA opened an outbound call center specifically designed to contact disabled female veterans to encourage them to enroll in the VA health care system.

With nearly 15 percent of active duty military and 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve military forces made up of female soldiers, the number of female veterans is expected to climb in the next few years. VA health care totals showed 160,000 female veterans utilized its services in 2000 and climbed to more than 354,000 in 2012. VA health care services for female veterans may cover general care, women-specific services, and disability care.

The qualifications to apply for veterans disability benefits are no different between male and female veterans. When veterans believe they are suffering from disabling conditions related to military service, they are entitled to seek disability benefits through the VA.

The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help disabled female veterans file for veterans disability benefits. Call us at 1-888-234-5758 or fill out our contact form to get in touch with us today.

New Veterans Disability Claims May Be Eligible for Fast-Track Processing

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

In late 2011 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began a 15-month trial of a pilot program designed to expedite fully developed veterans disability claims. The pilot program, known as the Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) program, is the VA’s latest initiative to reduce the disability claim backlog.

The ACE program combines the resources of the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration to promote instant sharing of records. The two administrations work together to evaluate a claim for completeness in regards to medical records.

The ACE Process

During the ACE process, a Veterans Affairs medical provider uses the disabled veteran’s existing medical records to complete a disability questionnaire. If necessary, a telephone interview with the disabled veteran is conducted to fill in any missing medical information. If the medical provider can gather enough evidence through medical records and interviews, the disabled veteran may be eligible to forgo the in-person medical evaluation, saving time, travel, and stress.

Officials from the VA are confident that the ACE program will help, “expedite the determination of disability ratings in turn eliminating the wait time to schedule and conduct an exam from the claims process.” The pilot test at one regional VA office found that 38 percent of all incoming claims were eligible for evaluation through the ACE program.

Medical evidence and military records are the two most important parts of a veteran’s disability claim application. Errors or omissions in these forms of documentation can lead to delays or unfair denials of veterans’ disability benefit claims.

If a disabled veteran or family member of a wounded warrior needs assistance navigating the veterans’ disability claims process, the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help. Contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA and Defense Department at Odds on Integrated Health Records

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense Department (DoD) are slated to merge their health record systems by 2017, but negotiations are hitting road blocks.

The most recent developments in the struggle for medical record integration came late February when DoD officials rejected adopting the VA’s VISTA health record system, according to Stars and Stripes. The VA has been using VISTA for years, but some argue that the system may be outdated and not as adaptable as other systems under consideration.

One thing that both departments do seem to agree on is that veterans and doctors should be able to share the same medical records no matter what system is employed. The goal is still to create a single health record system to improve communication between the departments’ health facilities.

Urgency for this measure comes from the backlog of veterans’ disability claims that have suffered from delays in communication of medical records. When the VA has to pull medical records from the DoD, it creates extra steps in the approval process that can add unnecessary time to the completion of a claim.

Officials have promised that by the end of 2013 one of the major steps to the seamless health record system will be completed. At year’s end the basic sharing of health records and a common method of displaying records will be developed and implemented. A major decision on which computer system to approve will come by the end of March.

Medical records are one of the most important parts of a veterans disability claim and incomplete records may result in unnecessary claim delays. The veterans’ disability claim team at The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is ready to help disabled veterans  apply for benefits and help through the process. Contact our disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA Launches New Phase of Innovation Initiative to Benefit Veterans

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently launched a new phase of its VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2). The new program, the VA Center for Innovation (VACI), will continue to build upon the success of VAi2 by reaffirming the VA’s commitment to innovators in the veterans’ services field.

The program integrates companies and organizations from government and private sectors to develop new technologies, procedures, and solutions focused on improving benefits to veterans.

VAi2, which has been in operation since 2010, built a 120-project portfolio containing initiatives for improving the accessibility and quality of services and care available to veterans. The VA Center for Innovation seeks to continue building this portfolio, starting with 13 new awards to partners across the U.S.

The VACI’s recent awards focus on the Blue Button medical record program, teleaudiology, prosthetic socket redesign for amputees, and automation of the sterilization process for reusable medical instruments. Research in these areas is of specific interest to disabled veterans who may suffer from hearing disabilities or lost limbs.

As more innovations in medical care and electronic record keeping are made, disabled veterans are entitled to benefit from these improvements. By applying for veterans’ disability benefits, a claimant may secure monetary benefits for disabling conditions, and veterans may benefit from enhanced care and opportunities to participate in medical trials through VA hospitals and clinics.

The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help you develop a claim for veterans’ disability benefits. If you have questions about veterans’ disability benefits, request a FREE copy of our eBook, Don’t Panic: Win Your VA Disability Claim. When you’re ready, contact us today at 888-234-5758 to discuss your case with one of our claims representatives.

VA Secretary Reinforces Department Goals on Veterans Day 2012

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

In the Veterans Day 2012 message from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki reminded the country of his department’s commitment to continued improvement of veterans services.

The November 9 press release commended the millions of veterans who have served our country and reminded them that our nation is committed to supporting them in several capacities. He focused on the more than 1.5 million veterans who have served in the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Horn of Africa combat theaters in the past 11 years and reminded them of the veterans services to which they are entitled through the Department of Veterans Affairs as they return home.

In his Veterans Day 2012 message, Secretary Shinseki highlighted the innovations the Department of Veterans Affairs has made in the past years to bring in 21st century technology to help assist disabled veterans with combat-related injuries. He summarized the VA’s continued goals:

  • increase access to benefits and services available through the VA;
  • eliminate the veterans disability compensation claims backlog by 2015; and
  • end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

Secretary Shinseki attributed the achievements made by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the dedication of the VA staff. The employees who serve in the regional and branch offices, as well as the administration at the main VA centers, are among those who help provide veterans services to all veterans and their families.

Veterans disability attorneys are also here to support veterans struggling with disabling conditions related to their military service. Millions of disabled veterans may be eligible to file for veterans disability benefits, a process that may be made easier when working with an attorney.

If you are a disabled veteran whose application for disability compensation has been denied or you have not yet applied for veterans disability benefits, a disability attorney from South Florida-based LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To discuss eligibility for certain programs and benefits through the VA, contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

19 VA Hospitals Named Top Performers by Joint Commission

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Nineteen VA hospitals across the U.S. are standing out amongst the 152 VA facilities as top performers according to a recent review by The Joint Commission. Veterans, including disabled veterans receiving disabled veterans benefits, may obtain health care for disabling conditions at these or other VA medical facilities. All of the 152 VA medical facilities are accredited by The Joint Commission.

The Joint Commission is a non-profit organization that independently reviews and accredits health care organizations and programs across the U.S. It reviews VA hospitals and helps the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) keep up to speed on the quality of care.

The 19 VA hospitals recognized by The Joint Commission are those that performed best in the Commission’s review of care processes associated with positive patient outcomes. With millions of veterans in the United States eligible for health care through these centers, it is important that improvements continue to be made to support the growing veteran population.

The Department of Veterans Affairs strives to continue to improve its health care system by implementing the latest medical procedures and administrative measures. The VA Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Robert Petzel, said in a statement, “VA health care has been a leader in performance measurement, electronic health records, research and clinical quality for more than a decade.” These 19 VA hospitals support that claim, with eight of them now recipients of the top performer award in consecutive years.

Veterans disability benefits can help disabled veterans establish a better connection to their local VA hospitals to make sure they are obtaining the care and support they deserve. When you apply for veterans disability benefits, work with a South Florida disability attorney to make sure you are getting the full disability compensation to which you are entitled.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA Partners with Entertainment Industry for Veteran Health Video

Friday, September 28th, 2012

A video produced through collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) hopes to serve as a resource for entertainers portraying veterans suffering from mental health problems.

The recently released Picture This: Veteran Mental Health Challenges and Solutions was produced as a guide for writers, actors, and others in the entertainment industry. It aims to promote more accurate portrayals of the challenges and realities of veterans with mental health issues.

The stories of several disabled veterans and their families, such as some featured in the Make the Connection public outreach campaign, are referenced in Picture This. The video offers explanations of some of the applicable terminology regarding symptoms, treatments, and the conditions themselves. It also provides some background information about veterans.

The VA hopes that this guide will provide a valuable resource for the entertainment industry when artists strive to tell stories related to veterans and mental health issues. The VA press release notes that, “Picture This supports the creative process and is organized to address the needs of those developing entertaining story lines and characters that greatly impact societal perceptions.”

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today  1-888-234-5758.

Department of Veterans’ Affairs Promotes Full Claims Development to Help Disabled Veterans

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

On Tuesday, July 31, during a workshop for Veterans Service Organizations, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) emphasized the importance of the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) initiative.

The initiative is designed to encourage veterans and those that assist them with VA disability claims to strive to submit a FDC to help reduce the backlog of disability claims the VA is currently dealing with. According to CBSNews, over 500,000 claims are awaiting decisions, which can take an average of 254 days to reach.

The VA considers a veterans’ disability claim to be fully developed when it includes all available supporting evidence, especially private and federal treatment records. These records can often take the VA up to 175 days to obtain, while the veteran themselves or their veterans’ disability attorney can often gather them much faster.

During the workshop, the VA encouraged Veterans Service Organizations to promote the submission of more FDCs. Currently, only about three percent of the claims filed with the VA are FDCs, which can process in about 110 days.

Veterans Service Organizations have outreach programs across the nation, but one of the best local resources for disabled veterans is still their area veterans’ disability attorneys.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today  1-888-234-5758.