Veterans Disability Appeals In Crisis

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) http://gao.gov just issued a report http://gao.gov/products/GAO-17-234 that, in essence, says that the veterans’ disability appeals system is a shambles. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) http://va.gov concurs and is proposing a “hiring surge” to reduce its claims backlog. DVA wants the fiscal year 2018 budget to include enough money to hire primarily attorneys to help reduce the backlog. If it does not get the necessary funds, DVA predicts that the backlog could grow to more than one million cases in a decade, accompanied by wait times of 8.5 years for claims to be resolved.

DVA is seeking 1,458 additional staff next year for this purpose. This comes on top of a recent hiring binge that increased the number of Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) https://www.bva.va.gov/ attorneys involved in deciding claims from 75 to 450.

There are currently almost 25 million veterans. In addition to the 2 million Iraq and Afghanistan war vets, there are more than 8 million Vietnam era vets. Almost 10 million veterans are over age 65. More than 50 percent of Iraq and Afghan war veterans are applying for disability benefits.

Hundreds of thousands of veterans are being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from military service.  PTSD is so widespread among combat veterans that DVA has established a National Center for PTSD. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/ This has had the effect of encouraging even more benefit claims, resulting in more work for attorneys.