Listening to Veterans’ experiences improves VBA appeals processes


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Veterans filing disability claims have said they want choices and faster decisions. Due to improvements in the system and processes, Veterans are now getting more options.

VA’s Benefits Administration’s (VBA) goal is to deliver VA benefits and services to Veterans and their families in a responsive, timely and compassionate manner, in recognition of their service to the Nation. To work toward fulfilling the goal of delivering benefits faster and more effectively, VBA has implemented improvements to the benefits processes – with more improvements planned.

To meet this goal, VBA built a customer service framework focused on listening to Veterans’ input and improving its processes based on that input. The customer service model then empowers both Veterans and employees to make changes.

“Since implementing this framework, VBA has made improvements for Veterans that are powerful and measurable,” said Brianne Ogilvie, executive director of VBA’s Office of Administrative Review, which oversees the process of requesting a decision review on Veterans’ claims decisions. “Most importantly, VBA made these changes based on direct feedback from Veterans.”

How has Veteran feedback improved VBA processes?

Appeals Modernization Act of 2017

One example is the transformation of the appeals process. For years, Veterans have been asking for VA “to fix the broken appeals process.” Appeals are the result of a Veteran formally disagreeing with the decision that VA made on her compensation claim. In that process – now known as “the legacy appeals process” – Veterans could wait three to seven years for a single decision – and even longer if they disagreed with that decision!

Today, the legacy appeals process is closed to new appellants. Its replacement required legislative change. To get there, VBA worked closely with internal and external partners, including Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), Veteran advocates, other VA administrations, and Congressional staffers to draft and pass the Veteran Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA).

AMA created two new decision review processes: the Higher-Level Review and the Supplemental Claim. These are in addition to a traditional appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). One of the most popular features of the new law is that Veterans can now decide which of the three options to pursue, based on their situation.

Implementing these new decision review processes significantly decreased the number of Veterans waiting for decisions on their disagreements, as well as the time they waited.

When AMA was fully implemented two years ago, VBA set a goal to complete decisions in an average of 125 days. Veterans who chose one of these two new processes no longer wait years for a decision. Instead, VBA is meeting its average timeliness goals in both the Higher-Level Review and Supplemental Claim lanes. (Interested? Here’s how to opt-in from the legacy process. And, here’s how to track our numbers. )

In Fiscal Year 2021, Higher-Level Reviews are being completed in an average of 124 days, and Supplemental Claims are being completed in an average of 94 days. Since VA implemented AMA, VBA reduced its inventory of pending appeals by 87%.

VSignals

In addition to revamping the appeals process, VBA continues to seek Veterans’ input about the services they receive through the launch of a new survey program. These Veteran-focused electronic surveys are known as VSignals.

Each week, VBA sends approximately 2,800 VSignals surveys focused on the end-to-end customer experience with its two AMA decision review processes. The surveys capture insights about Veterans’ experiences appealing a claim decision when submitting their decision review request – and their experiences at the end of the process, once they receive a decision.

“Veterans can see that their feedback is directly responsible for improvements to the process, and that encourages them to participate in the surveys. The more feedback we get, the better for the Veteran experience,” Ogilvie said.

Each returned survey helps VBA understand the strengths and weaknesses in its processes. Each week, VBA calls several survey respondents to learn even more about their experiences. These calls are opportunities for VBA to address concerns and understand specifically what is and is not working for Veterans. The calls also allow VBA to determine where the Higher-Level Review and Supplemental Claim processes can be further improved.

VBA has already made clear improvements to the customer experience through its deliberate, customer-focused efforts. The organization continues to listen, improve, and empower Veterans and employees to identify future enhancements to meet its ongoing goal of delivering benefits in a responsive, timely and compassionate manner.


Shireen Lackey is senior management and program analyst at VBA’s Office of Administrative Review.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Donna Miller    

    I am at the end because of the way VA is treating the more senior Veterans. My neighbor’s father has Terminal Lung Cancer, was placed on hospice in January and VA is still not completing his exam even though he has completed compensation exams, VA exams, all requested paperwork and DD-214.

    What is the hold up? They can’t tell us…. Yes we contacted our Senators and Congressmen and Nothing. They are also waiting on records from NPRC, which sent communication to all legislatures no records would be given for claims. So you are waiting on a Veteran to die for paperwork You should know id not coming.

    We just contacted the News Media. Enough is enough.

    hank you for contacting the National Personnel Record Center (NPRC). While we have received your email, the NPRC has been operating with reduced staff since March 2020 and due to this limitation, responses could not be provided from this email address. From March 2020 to date, NPRC servicing has been limited to urgent requests related to homeless veterans seeking shelter, medical emergencies, and burials only. While every effort will be put forth to complete your request, processing times have been significantly increased due to reduced on-site personnel. Processes are being put into place to expand the scope of the requests being serviced along with the necessary equipment needed to facilitate processing the requests in the current COVID environment. If you have a Service Request number (starts with 2-2, followed by 10 digits), you may check the status of your request online at https://vetrecs.archives.gov/VeteranRequest/status.html.

    If you request pertains to a Burial, Medical Emergency, or Homeless Veteran seeking shelter and you would like to submit, or resubmit, your request, you may do so at https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records, and select the blue “Start Request Online” button. Please follow the following notes:

    [Editor: Donna, you wrote: “VA is still not completing his exam even though he has completed compensation exams, VA exams.” I’m confused. Is the exam complete, or not complete? C&P exams are requested by the rating members when they have medical questions. Not every claimant receives a C&P. But, if the claimant has, then it’s an indication that the rating members are nearing the end of the claim process. Also, VA always requests medical records from DoD at the beginning, when VA receives the new claim. This is not dependent upon the user’s individual request from NPRC/Archives.]

  2. Larry Sakai    

    I had an Appt for 09:45 for a hart test here i Louisville KY and was told to be early. I got to the VA Hosp at 09:05 and was REFUSED ENTRY because I was told I was too early, It was cold and raining and it was a 10 min walk back to me car, I was told I could wait outside for 30 min and then could come in. So I told them they ould give my appt time to someone else… This and the fact that the VA will take the Tax Refund check from Veterans (if they get one) i the Veteran cant pay for services isthe reason I no longer usethe VA. Just my feedback,

  3. Dario Zevallos    

    I tried the new appeals process, and it turned out to be be just as bad as the legacy. It took a month for me to get a message in the system saying that I wasn’t specific as to what condition my appeal was for. I was very specific as to my appeal being for the back date of the final decision, since my original claim was based on my retirement date after 25 yrs of service. It only took 3 years for a decision and another 4 for an appeal, due to missing information, and still have it wrong. Missing records… well after the request went out, two and a half years later, the “VA sent me my records so that I could make copies to give to the VA”, yes you read that correctly… however, they had my records all along from when I turned over everything I was given when I retired. This was confirmed by the doctors during my last appointments. No my last appeal has been closed without any explanation nor notification.

  4. Jerald D Revell    

    Jerald Revell February 17@ 7:36 unfortunately I agree with most of the veterans concerns about how they were denied on there decisions. I have been denied on sleep apnea when I have proven that I have sleep apnea by my va doctor and regular doctors, but they say its not service connected. I found out that when I was in the navy the navy didn’t document my issues with sleep apnea so I keep getting turned down on my appeal for that. Also I’m get upset about the decision making also ,to the people making the decisions have no idea what you go through over there and the harsh elements and oil in the air we all had to breathe. I have a lot of breathing problems cause of it but cause the navy didn’t document when I went to sick bay I m getting turned down all the time

    [Editor: When a VA decision says “not service connected,” it means that VA couldn’t find evidence of the event/injury/medical condition in your service records, as you noted. As for the raters, more than half of them are Veterans themselves. Most of the rest are dependents of Veterans. Yes, they “know what we went through.”]

    1. Peter P    

      The issues remaining are included in your response to the Veteran:
      1) You require issues to be documented while in service. Here’s the kicker – using Agent Orange as an example, many times symptoms to appear until years later. So VBA automatically hides from responsibility that is easily identified by private and VA doctors. This couldn’t be more true with today’s issue of Gulf War Syndrome, or what VA likes to term as unexplained issues. What’s interesting is that you push the idea of having been in specific regions, instead of looking at the similarities of exposure. What’s obvious is that you share many of the presumptive causes such as chemicals, toxins, fumes, etc.; share the symptoms of such exposure then isolate it to cover as few Veterans as possible. I served on a fuel/ammo replenishment ship, not near a burn-pit, but hands deep in MEK and toxic paints and other chemicals, along with fumes of Diesel, JP-5 and JP-8. Everything matches up, but VBA automatically claims “no symptoms during service” or “not in the specified area. VA Doctors know that it is more likely than not attributed to exposure as do private doctors, but VBA doesn’t care about the medical indications. Funny how the VA medical community can see the connection but the Benefits community will render a decision despite evidence shown.

      2) Just because some raters are Veterans means very little, especially when VBA writes the regs to meet a minimum need for Veterans. As most Veterans will share, the system works to cover as few Veterans as possible. Maybe why it took so long for the admission of the effects of Agent Orange, something that was obviously service connected.

      3) Requesting a higher review. This is just a plain smoke screen. I have personally had 3 more recent claims that were requested to go to a higher review. The response was to send it to the same review body it went to initially. So when you explain how the system was made better by providing a higher authority view, sell that to those who don’t know or haven’t been through the appeals process. Otherwise, when a higher review is requested, VBA supposedly arranged.

      Finally, in closing, I’d suggest that VBA review the people who provides the reviews. When a Veteran exhibits multiple “unexplained” diagnosis that occur in a relatively short time span and has no family history of those illnesses, those illnesses reflect the same issues as similar to other Veterans like Gulf War Syndrome, and the same exposures are indicated through common knowledge or simple understanding of military positions, then it’s most likely due to military service, as suggested by VA’s medical experts and private doctors. The Gulf War is nearly 30 years past – surely VA isn’t going to wait like it did with Agent Orange, unless service connection isn’t really the focus.

  5. Cornelius Sankey    

    I’ve been trying to get my benefits for ptsd for about 6 years now. And still being nothing but turned down cause they keep saying its not service – connected. But 6 of the VA doctors said that I have ptsd and its service – connected. The VA have no idea of what happen to me when I was just a kid far away from home. Which it rides me all day, everyday. They don’t what its like to be worried, stressed, and afraid all the time. Its a battle all the time trying to make it through day without hurting yourself or someone else. Then ur struggling all at the same time. You can’t tell people whats going on in your life because people will laugh in your face or say that ur crazy. I know firsthand I had it to happen to me on the VA holtline. And that hurts. In closing I was alone when it happen and I’m still alone in this everyday battle.

    [Editor: Cornelius, the first thing to do is decide which of VA’s several dozen benefits you want. Are you seeking care and treatment? More on that, here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/health-needs-conditions/mental-health/ptsd/ Are you referring to disability compensation? When VA says “not service connected” on a claim decision letter, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the condition, it means VA couldn’t find evidence in your military records that you had the condition in service. You’ll want to include evidence of an event or injury or traumatic experience, whether that’s lay statement, witness/buddy/commander statements, photos, prescriptions, profiles, sick call slips, post deployment health screenings, awards citations, etc. In the meantime, please seek VA health treatment from the link above. You’re not alone.]

  6. Purple heart    

    I was told dental implants were to expensive for an old veteran. My teeth problems are service connected and I’m a 100% total and permanent disabled veteran.

  7. Lillian June Simons    

    I have been trying for over a year to get my late husband’s service connected disability checks. He died from asbestos mesothelioma from being on three different ships during Vietnam war. Every time I ask, they tell me they are waiting in his service records. I sent them, what they asked for and then some. I have had lawyers during the mfgs of the insulation that was put in the ships, but it’s been over a year. How much longer do I have to wait? I’m almost 70 and my husband died in 2019 from lung and brain cancer, along with diabetes, hbp, high thyroid levels, depression, and who knows what else. I think they should get someone on the ball and approve these claims. They act like it’s their money, when our boys fought with no questions asked.

  8. James McKown    

    I have been trying to get disability for my heart for awhile now. I went in to see my evaluator in Anchorage Alaska and all he would do is compare me to Lance Armstrong. I told him several times I am not Lance Armstrong and to stop comparing me to him. He did it to me one more time and I walked out. He never examed me, took a pulse or listened to my heart. I walked out on him. Yes I got disapproved. I put in an appeal and said that I wanted to be seen in person. That didn’t happen and I was disapproved again. In the letter it said yes they see where I had a problem but denied me again. I did not know I had a heart problem until I was showing my wife my medical record that I copied before I retired. The Navy/ Airforce never told me I had a heart problem when I was in service. I have a pacemaker now for the same reason that the doctors found when I was in service. I didn’t know I had a heart problem until I had two car accidents. So tell me that the VA cares when I get compared to someone else and won’t see me in person and deny me the disability that is in my medical record. The VA DOES NOT CARE. Now I have to get a lawyer!

    [Editor: James, one cannot file a claim for an organ. “Heart” is not an injury or medical condition. I’m sorry to hear that your experiences weren’t great, but I’d urge you to complete the exams, as they could benefit your case. To be granted compensation, one needs three things: a current diagnosis for an injury or medical condition; evidence of the event/injury/medical condition in your military service records; and lastly, a VA or civilian doctor’s nexus, linking the former to the latter. If you need assistance with this, I recommend a qualified VSO.]

  9. KayLeigh    

    Let’s be honest. Its a terrible system, its a broken system, and to prove a point…I have filed back in 2019 and I still don’t have all my appointments for my disability. It sucks.

    [Editor: KayLeigh, it’s not clear what you’re seeking here. If you’re asking about appointments for health care and treatment, then this is the wrong system. You can schedule VA health care appointments, here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/schedule-view-va-appointments/ This blog post is about non-health care, the disability compensation benefit through VBA, specifically, the system that allows a Veteran to disagree with the decision VA made on a claim.]

  10. stephen clark    

    I’ve been working on my claim for 3yrs been denied sent in appeal and was told that it wasn’t service connect I was in the service for a total of 23 yrs. I requested copies of my medical records and have not received a full copy. I enter the service on Sept 82 and retired in May 05 I was informed the decision was made off my medical records starting from 2014 where are my records and why cant anyone send them to me. I filled out the proper paperwork to request your medical and personnel record. How can a decision be made without my full medical records

    [Editor: Stephen, are you saying you haven’t finished submitting your claim? If so, a qualified VSO can assist you in getting everything collected and tidied and ready for submitting. If you meant that you filed the claim, disagreed with the decision, submitted an appeal, and have been waiting for three years, then it sounds like your appeal may be in the old legacy process. If that’s the case, then you can opt into the AMA when you receive an SOC or SSOC. This blog post is about the AMA. Next, when VA writes “not service connected,” that doesn’t mean you don’t have the medical condition, it means VA couldn’t find evidence of the condition in your service records. VA does not have a rolodex on every Veteran ever. When a Vet submits a claim, VA requests the medical records from the DoD service branch. It is helpful to your claim to submit copies of your own records as evidence. If you don’t have your records, you can submit the request, here: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records ]

  11. Walter West    

    I had to get back surgery twice the va was treating me for back pain for years and now they don’t have any information on it. But they treated me for it tens units and all but nobody has anything about it. And it was done by the va. But I had to get a out of the system doctor to tell what the real problem was.

  12. Walter West    

    Yes I have been waiting for the bva to do my claim since 2008 and right after I put it in they denied it and never got all my medical records and told me it was up to me I have been out for a long time and moved numerous times and do have them any more. But it doesn’t make a difference to them when I got the DAV. Involved but it still has not helped me really and when you call it is the same problem nobody knows anything. I am tried of trying to hold on and wait for them to do what they want to do when they get ready. I have been taking out of work since 2008 and all I get is a small amount of pension. It is really annoying to have worked so hard for this country and have to deal with this. I am a Vietnam era veteran. And I been struggling for years trying to make it and now I am 66 years old and still no resolve. With a active claim. So I guess they do just want us to die . So they can say the hell with us. I have to call and hardly ever get though so where is all this great progress.

    [Editor: Walter, what you’re describing is exactly what’s wrong with the old legacy appeals process. It was broken. Veterans hated it, VA hated it. But it was the law, and until there was a new law authorizing a new process, it was the system we had to deal with. This blog post is about the new process, created by law in 2017. That old process you’re in is now closed to new appeals. Soon it will go away forever. You can opt into the new process when you next receive a SOC or SSOC.]

  13. Scott    

    Its clear the va does not care about its veterans. Doing things like not helping the veteran whose money was stolen by his fiduciary/brother. Having to constantly fight with collection agencies because the va will not pay for the appointments they make and send you too in the civilian world. The va is a complete and utter failure and its care with and for vets

    [Editor: This blog post is about two portions of one very specific program unrelated to fiduciary. It illustrates a good-faith effort by VA and partners to improve an antiquated and broken system. That you have an issue elsewhere doesn’t mean that VA doesn’t care about Veterans, it means that you have a situation that should be brought to VA’s attention. You can contact the fiduciary hub, here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/FIDUCIARY/contact-us.asp ]

  14. George McNair    

    Not true. The new system and the contract companies they hired are only interested in creating a bureaucratic nightmare that does not support the veteran.

    [Editor: Not all claimants need a C&P examination, but the contracted examiners play a small role toward the end of the process. If needed, the rater schedules an exam, the examiner examines the Veteran and then files the report. A few days later, the rater completes the claim and sends it up for finalization. It is an added step for those who need an exam, but it’s hardly bureaucratic. A few weeks ago, I talked to the chief of contract exams (he’s a Vet, too). They’re aware of the perception Vets have and are working hard to change it–for the better.]

  15. Barbara D. Moody    

    I submitted a Notice of Disagreement to a denied claim in Dec. 2017. In 2020, I received a Statement of the Case to file a “formal appeal” to the BVA in which I submitted Mar. 2020. So yes, I’m still waiting for a decision (since the initial disagreement in 2017). Also note: my original Dec 2017 filing date was “closed” in Apr 2020 when my new appeal was received in Mar 2020. So yes, looks like my filing dates started over. I did opt in from the legacy process.

  16. Christopher Cancel    

    This article is complete BS. The VBA and VA as an entire entity has gotten progressively worst. They continue to hire people who absolutely do not care about veterans. I would venture to say that when you contact the department of Veterans Affairs phone line maybe, 1 out of every 10 actually care and do their very best to help you.
    – I have been hung up on multiple times
    – Ok have been cut off while explaining my issue
    – I have been told I could not speak with a supervisor
    – I have been lied to and told a supervisor was not available.
    – I have been told sorry nothing more we can do when they had no answer to my questions.

    All of this after waiting in hood for at least 2hrs.

    When you finally get an answer in the mail it is NOTHING of what was reported to the VA or DRs which then places you back into the appeals game and cycle for years with no end in site.

    Honestly, I feel the VA was set in place to prevent veterans from receiving benefits.

    Not one day goes by that I don’t say, “I wish I could give back every dollar and benefit and have my normal
    Life back NOT because of my injuries but rather so I don’t have to EVER step foot in another VA facility or deal with any other VA employees!”

    Worst experience of my life. I’d rather go back to combat than to deal with these Jack wagons at the VA facilities.

  17. Kenneth E. Winn    

    All talk been 18 years about 12 for decision and filed notice of disagreement NOD and another 6 years only to file that I still disagree with a no brainer. All they do when I went for an appointment was cut up laugh and topical government employees do nothing.

    [Editor: Kenneth, what you’re describing is indicative of the old, broken legacy appeals process. When you receive an SOC or SSOC, you can opt into this new AMA process.]

  18. Mary Susan Dodson    

    I have been unable to get surgery on my service connected right foot. Surgery has been scheduled twice but could not be done due to I have nobody to drive me and I am in need of being in Encompass for a minimum of 48 hours because I have no family or anyone to be with me first 24 hours to insure I do not fall due to being on an opioid for pain. My primary care doctor lobbied for this care for me but Nurse Manager Community Care denied twice because balance is not considered an acute rehabilitation need. I am 69, live alone and do not even have an emergency contact. I was told that basically this is my problem and denied surgery not once but twice for service connected surgery. This is a disgrace and how May I get my needed surgery???

    1. Shaun Thompson    

      Hi. Desert Storm Veteran here 11B Infantry 88-92. I didn’t file until last year. I heard all of the horror stories about the Vietnam era.. I guess I’m in the new system and I was pleasantly surprised about the speed of my claims. One was denied and I am asking for a higher review but I got 80% on my other claims in about 4 months. I don’t know if that’s because of the different system or not but if you’ve been held up for years I would suggest trying it. It can’t hurt right? Good luck all!

      [Editor: Thanks for the feedback, Shaun. You’re not an outlier. Four months is around the backside of average on wait.]

    2. Shelly Time    

      I’m sorry to that you are having trouble with the VA medical system. My husband is a veteran and broke is arm on January 5, 2021. We have been to the VA hospital 6 times. The first time we didn’t even get to the ER! They were more concerned about his blood pressure than the fact that his arm was broken! After finally getting a consult with the orthopedic doctor, they put his arm in a “splint”, it was more like a cast, and sent him home with extra strength Tylenol. They took the splint off last week and want him to start physical therapy. We have the X-ray’s. The bone is clearly broken!!!!! The children and I have ChampVA. If anyone of us had the same injury, we would have had surgery in no time and on our way to recovery. The system is so broken that it makes the American political system make sense. We are going to have to go to another hospital to have the surgery and make payments on the the bill. I am so angry at the “system”. If I could help you… I would be by your side throughout the entire process! The way it was meant to be! Best of luck!

      [Editor: Shelly, I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s arm. In fact, I can relate. I broke my humerus in two places while pitching in a baseball game a few months after coming home from my second deployment to Iraq, after I left the Army. I was rushed to the ER, splinted up for the night, and saw the doctor the next day. The next day, he looked at me, told me to be strong, then squeezed my arm, feeling the broken bits back into place. I screamed and nearly fainted. But, in my case, he said it’d grow back stronger, no surgery. Took a few years, but I was able to regain most of my strength and motion to play catch with my son and later pitch to my Little Leaguers. But I digress. This blog post is for non-health care, for VA’s disability compensation appeals, for when a Veteran disagrees with the decision VA makes on a claim. If you’d like to talk to someone about your husband’s care, please call us at 1-844-MyVA311 (1-844-698-2311).]

    3. KayLeigh    

      I would write a letter.to.your congressman too (in hopes that might light a fire which I doubt but thats better than nothing). Im sorry to hear about the disgusting treatment in this process. Myself as a veteran 10 years served, I hope they get their heads out of the dark place and get it together…this is insane

  19. Jamie L Mills    

    So if you opt into the “new and IMPROVED” AMA process does the “clock” reset in terms of back compensation. Because some people like myself have been on the “clock” since 2009 or longer. And if it is so efficient why can’t they help getting the so called “legacy” cases caught up… It sounds like a racket to me…

    [Editor: It does not “reset the clock.” You lose nothing. The compensation requirements are the same. The same VA or BVA workers will work it. Your dates are preserved. This is explained in several of the links in this blog post. The legacy system is closed to new appeals and, when BVA finishes the last of them, that process will go away entirely. What’s different in AMA is how and when VA is allowed to proceed, as well as additional ways the Vet can help themselves with new evidence. But VA cannot force Veterans in the old system into the new system. They must opt in. There are links in this post for how and when to opt in.]

  20. Nolan Megehee    

    All this BULL about how much better the VA is pure nonsense. I was in for 25 years seen my share and trying to get the to get my disability increased has been a looong drawn out stressful experience. Last tour I was a Plt
    Sgt with 53 soldiers to look after, my mistake was not going to sick call and getting the documentation to back up my injuries. Trying to be the best leader I could be and fearful my soldiers would be split up and used anyway our sister companys or units we supported saw fit as I witnessed first hand how many were exposed to the more hazardous situations rather than risk the lives of their own troops. When I finally did see a doctor they were going to send me back to Germany for surgery, I refused to go because they told me I wouldn’t make it back in theater. Instead of looking after my best interests like others going to sick call and missing missions and have others to fill in. I’m in constant pain and have been diagnosed with PTSD even though I have been turned down for compensation because another platoon used our AARs and supporting documents after returning home. Its frustrating as hell to see your troops dealing with the trauma of war. Some have taken their own lives so their family members or spouses won’t have to deal with them. It’s a shame our men and women are treated as if it’s some kind of privilege to be able to get the medical and mental health benefits that they have earned. These people have risked their own lives, missed their children growing up, not to mention all the failed marriages that the service to their country has caused. Many have resorted to taking drugs or alcohol to dull the pain or just to get some sleep.
    Many like me come from families that have have family members in every generation from as far back as they can trace their family tree who have served in the armed forces. And this is how they are treated, it’s truly a terrible shame.

    [Editor: Nolan, do you have pictures of you overseas, near a pit? Letters that you wrote home talking about it? Can you get witness statements from the soldiers who served under you? These are acceptable forms of “evidence” to present for your claim. But you’ll also need a diagnosis for a medical condition from either a VA or civilian doctor.]

    1. KayLeigh    

      There is now something called a VA Burn Pit registry. I highly recommend ALL Veterans to take a look at this.

      Also VAInsider.com – this will help get some answers for some of your issues. They can guide you to getting the proper care.

  21. Linda Dean    

    My man has been waiting since 2006. He has ptsd, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis and heart disease. And waking siezures. We recieved thtee letters in 2011 stating they were still processing claim.

    [Editor: Linda, this blog post talks about the AMA, which replaced the legacy appeals system. It has details on how to opt into the new process.]

  22. Jim    

    Since 2019 I have an active claim at age 73 the want me to die and do away with me there are over 95000 in front me yes 95000 at this rate I will be dead from agent Orange

    1. Ronnie    

      The system is broken what they need to do is listen to the VA doctors and hire real doctors who know what the soldiers were exposed to not people that are not doctors or don’t know know anything about the chemicals of war or issues. sorry but the VA is designed to limit your claims and give you the least possible amount for your disability

      [Editor: Ronnie, VA has previously acknowledged that the old appeals system was broken. This blog post discusses how the new system benefits Veterans. If you have questions about VA disability compensation, as well as what evidence is needed, a qualified VSO can assist you.]

  23. Donald Wojciechowski    

    My request for a decision review officer has been pending for 8 years, they recieved my request on 15 January 2013 and I’m still haven’t heard anything from them

    [Editor: Donald, this blog post discusses the AMA, which was introduced in 2017. It sounds like your appeal is in the legacy process that AMA replaced. This blog post has info on how to opt into the new process.]

  24. Alex Vera    

    Fundamentally, VBA needs to change it’s world view. It isn”t about speeding up the Apeal process. The root question is why are there so many apoeals in the first place. Poor training leads to flawed decisions. VBA quality control issues haven’t changed much since WW II. Statistics would reveal that the claims “backlog” are cases that have crossed a decision makers desk (now keyboard?) three or more times before completion. The goal should be Do It Right The First Time. VBA’s forms and instructions have become so complex, us older folks require a magnifying glass and training just to understand them. It is unbelievable how many vets file appeals when a favorable decision requires easily obtained new evidence. Clearly explaining the difference between reopening a claim and an Appeal will improve timeliness, reduce pending claims and generate time for trainimg opportunities.

    Retired VBA team leader & Vietnam veteram

    [Editor: Alex, “reopening” was retired, functionally replaced by HLR in AMA. The claim forms and walk-through process, now hosted on VA.gov, are a remarkable improvement over the old papers and previous iterations on eBenefits.]

  25. Warner Henderson    

    I requested a second opinion was sent to an outside doctor who never reviewed my medical records and said that all I had was a slight case of asthma, but gave me a prescription for a inhaler that I was already getting from the VA

  26. Joseph Julian    

    The VA has let me down for 3 years now and I am still waiting for a hearing date with the VBA. They denied my claims without even looking at the evidence. Why can’t vetrans testify at their own hearings? I am a Army veteran, 11Bravo with neck trama that causes mini seasures and I get zero help from the VA, just denials.

    [Editor: Re: “without even looking at the evidence.” Every claim is seen by several personnel before finalized. If you’ve been waiting for several years, it sounds like you’re in the legacy process. This blog post discusses the benefits of getting out of the legacy process and into the new AMA. There are links in the post on how to opt into the new process.]

  27. John    

    The VBA is doing nothing of the sort. My appeal hearing was March, 2019. I’m still waiting for the VBA judge to make a decision after the remand instructions were completed mid 2020. Haven’t received any correspondence.

    [Editor: John, it sounds like you’re not in the new AMA, but in the old legacy system? There is a link in the post on how to opt into AMA from legacy.]

  28. Kenneth Campbell    

    I keep reading these article’s about how mush better the VA is getting in processing claims. And I am still waiting over a year for my claim to be processed. And that’s with the help of a VOC and congressmen. I just don’t see how that’s improvement.
    Please send me one of those survey’s.

  29. Darrell C Crummett    

    Too long! I first filed my claim in 2017. Here I am now almost four years later, after appeals.

    I have Pulmonary Fibrosis , due to exposure while serving in the Navy. I have provided signage,
    articles, Buddy letters and Doctors statements on my condition. I am so short of breath that
    I am tied to a scooter. Difficulty breathing and weakness is constant. I am on oxygen day and
    night. What can yo do to help me.

    [Editor: Darrell, this blog post discusses the benefits of the new appeals process. If you’ve been waiting 4+ years, it’s likely that you’re in the old legacy process. There are links in this post for how to opt into the newer AMA.]

  30. Kenneth A. Mattonen    

    It has been 3 1/2 months since I requested copies of my CP exams and have received nothing. Why? I will need them for my HLR and Claim Appeal.

    [Editor: Kenneth, you’re requesting your materials from VA, to send back to VA? If you plan to appeal a claim decision, you should submit new and material evidence that VA doesn’t already have.]

    1. Cory Tourville    

      Unfortunately I agree with Kenneth. I had a spinal stimulator put in my back to interrupt the pain signal from my leg to my brain. The people who determine disability said “Your back is not service connected”. The VA installed this stimulator.

      1. SW    

        At least the VA installed a spinal simulator in your back. I got told they wouldn’t because it’s “too expensive and would only be a last resort”. Also likely has something to do with the fact that I’m a woman?? We all know women aren’t real veterans.

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