Progress with Veterans’ Claims; Progress with Veterans’ Appeals to follow?

Recently VA Secretary Robert McDonald issued a press statement concerning the VA Disability Claims process. Therein, it is noted that significant progress has been made in the claims backlog, however very limited progress has been made in the appeals backlog. Some interesting statistics included that the VA Claims backlog has been cut from 611,000 to 82,000. However, as noted by Secretary McDonald 11 to 12 percent of those claims resulted in appeals being filed by the Veteran. At Smith Godios Sorensen Inc., our VA practice is limited to filing and representing veterans on such appeals.

Secretary McDonald stated that there are currently 440,000 cases pending on appeal and that this number is “estimated to grow rapidly.” Here, the Secretary explained something that my veteran clients and I know all too well- that claims at the BVA average a five year wait time, while claims resolved at the first level of appeal average a three year processing time. In addition, Secretary McDonald correctly acknowledges that “thousands” of these appeals last “much longer.”

To his credit, Secretary McDonald expresses that he is troubled by this appeal delay, stating that the same is unacceptable. Secretary McDonald suggested some plans to make the appeals process faster and more efficient. It certainly seems as though his heart is in the right place. Hopefully, his plan works because the current wait time for a VA Appeal is probably the most discouraging part of this area of law for lawyers and veterans alike.

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