Editorial: VA Claims Wait Times

We recently received a reader question about wait times for VA claims regarding Camp Lejeune contamination.

“I have filed with the VA and it’s taken a long time to get any help. I have been unable to work since April, 2015.”

Unfortunately, we hear about this often.

Here’s a quick look at the total number of Veterans and their locations across the US:

[graphiq id=”fp4OTMK3Ecl” title=”U.S. Veterans by State” width=”600″ height=”606″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/fp4OTMK3Ecl” link=”http://va-hospitals.healthgrove.com” link_text=”HealthGrove | Graphiq” ]

A recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) found that the average wait time to evaluate a claim was 277 days. The CIR found that vets in New York and North Texas waited the longest, at an average of more than one year.

It is very important that you do everything you can to file a complete application. If there is an error or missing information that leads to an initial denial, appeals can take even longer. Some vets who appeal a denied claim can wait three years or more for a resolution.

According to the VA, there are eight steps that most claims follow. These are:

Step 1: Claim Received
Step 2: Under Review
Step 3: Gathering of Evidence
Step 4: Review of Evidence
Step 5: Preparation for Decision
Step 6: Pending Decision Approval
Step 7: Preparation for Notification
Step 8: Complete

It is our understanding that all Camp Lejeune claims are currently being managed by the VA’s Louisville office. Here’s the latest data from that office on claims status as of this posting:

Civilian Exposure - VA - Louisville Claims

Overall metrics:

Civilian Exposure - VBA Report -10-17-2016

As of this post, this is the current “claims inventory” in the VA system:

Civilian Exposure - Current VA Claims Inventory 10-2016

 

With the Camp Lejeune claims situation and observations from the recent past, we remain a bit skeptical that the VA will be moving quickly to resolve claims.  Yet, it’s one thing to reduce wait times while it’s quite another to change the outcomes. Given the recent denial rates in 2013-2015 for Lejeune claimants, perhaps the VA is just getting more efficient in speeding up denials?

Of course, the one silver lining is the effort to provide presumptive status for 8 health conditions at Camp Lejeune. For those individuals that have one of those conditions, the wait time will become negligible, and the outcome will be positive. But, for the rest of you with other conditions not deemed presumptive, long wait times, delayed decisions, extended appeal periods and more will remain.

By the way – why not make the entire 15 conditions noted in the 2012 law presumptive? And why was the list limited to 15 in 2012 to begin with? We’ve heard so many stories from all of you about a variety of illnesses well beyond those 15 conditions, or in combination with them. Setting an arbitrary amount in and of itself was and remains limiting. It should be open-ended and expanded as new evidence continues to comes in.

Finally, why has presumptive/automatic coverage and care not been extended via DOD through the OWCP to civilian base employees also exposed? How about for families? Spouses? Children? Why must any resolution to this issue be restricted or limited to certain classes or groups of people aboard Lejeune?

Every person on that base drank the water, breathed in the vapors or absorbed toxins through their skin.

Everyone.

We’ll keep an eye on VA wait times to see if they improve. More importantly, we will continue to monitor the outcomes to make sure that denials decline.

Have an issue with VA wait times, delays, or protracted periods of time awaiting a response to an initial claim, appeal or issue?

Tell us your story.

 

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Civilian Exposure

Civilian Exposure is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization/public charity working to Build Awareness, Accountability and Assistance for Civilians Exposed to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and all citizens exposed to any toxic contamination aboard all U.S. military installations. The effort continues to inform civilian employees and others affected by contamination to receive both the guidance and the justice they deserve.

About the Founder
A 20-year veteran of media, marketing, non-profits and entrepreneurship, Gavin P. Smith leads Civilian Exposure, a non-profit assisting civilians and veterans exposed to U.S. military contamination; the Keta Foundation, a collaborative foundation dedicated to mitigating modern slavery through economic improvement projects in Africa; and Gavin Consulting, a network of virtual experts serving global clients; He is also a former member of the CDC/ATSDR Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel. Mr. Smith holds a Master of Global Management with distinction (Beta Gamma Sigma) from Thunderbird School of Global Management, an MBA from The College of William & Mary Mason School of Business and a BA in History from Wake Forest University.

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