VA Appeals Processing

Why Is the VA So Slow? Claims and Appeals That Take Forever!

In this blog I wanted to share a couple examples of the issues we face on a daily basis as we try to get our Veteran clients the benefits they deserve. Filing claims and appeals with the VA can be tiresome, but we continue to fight for the rights of our Veterans so that they can get the healthcare and benefits they need. The VA is notorious for delays and these are two perfect examples.

Claims and Appeals Case #1: Utapao

We’ve been filing disability claims and appeals with this client for at least three years. He has a number of outstanding claims with the VA including an agent orange claim, a traumatic brain injury claim, a knee claim, a lumbar strain claim — many different injuries this gentleman is experiencing as a result of his service. He served in the US Air Force and was stationed in Utapao, Thailand at the Royal Thai Air Force Base.

According to the VA Public Health office, anyone who served on the Royal Thai Air Force Base in Utapao, as well as other bases between 1961 and 1975, were exposed to herbicides and can qualify for VA benefits. This individual served there and was exposed to agent orange. He was on the security team that provided perimeter security for the Air Force Base. About six years ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and type II diabetes, neither of which run in his family.

In 2010, the VA established a special procedure to be used if you were filing claims for herbicides used in Thailand between 1961 and 1975. Herbicide use was widespread in that area, and as a whole over 20% of the country of Vietnam was sprayed with agent orange. That’s millions and millions of acres that were sprayed with herbicides and countless Veterans that were exposed to it.

So we’ve been working with this gentleman on his VA disability claims and we keep getting blocked by the VA. Their first response was that he did not qualify because he didn’t actually serve in Vietnam. We then showed the VA the special procedure in that public health law which says that yes, he does indeed qualify. Once we were past that hurdle, the VA replies again saying that he doesn’t qualify because his cancer is now in remission.

The problem with cancer is that you’re never completely “cured” of it. You may be in remission, but the cancer is still in your body. This clients doctor had documented that his PSA levels were back to normal and that he was in remission. The VA is claiming that remission equals cured and as a result they have denied his claim for agent orange exposure.

The VA has a long history of these types of delays and they’ve gotten plenty of grief about it over the years. If you file a claim with the VA and die while the claim is still pending, you’ve likely lost that benefit. There are some exceptions, but in most cases death will terminate the claim. So they’ve now delayed so long that the cancer is in remission and are denying benefits to this Veteran. We’re currently in the appeals process and hopefully we can eventually get him the benefits he deserves.

Claims and Appeals Case #2: Duc Lap

Another client of ours was in the Battle of Duc Lap during the Vietnam War and has filed a PTSD claim with the VA. This particular battle lasted several days and our client was on the battlefield as a forward observer. The battle was so fierce that they couldn’t med-evac any of his injured or fallen comrades, and they were stuck there in the foxhole for days. It’s difficult to even try to imagine the trauma that these soldiers experienced during this time. The fear was immense and the stench from the dead bodies was overwhelming.

To qualify for PTSD benefits, you must meed certain criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). We sent this client to a licensed psychologist that diagnosed him with PTSD using the DSM-5 criteria. We filed the claim with the VA and they came back with a whopping 40% disability rating, which is absurd. We currently have this claim in the appeals process as well because this individual should be rated closer to 100% disabled. His PTSD is so severe that he can’t function in daily life. He can’t be in crowds and he can’t tolerate loud noises. He is also very suspicious of people and is jumpy.

What Can You Do?

These are the kinds of issues we see frequently with the VA. They delay and then delay some more until you either forfeit or die. I don’t think it’s fair to treat our Veterans this way and we’re going to send appeals to fight tooth and nail for them. It took me five years to get one PTSD claim process, but we finally got it done. And we’re going to continue to help both of these individuals get what they most richly deserve.

Whether they were in Utapao or in Duc Lac, they were on the front lines fighting for our freedom. Our government sent them over there to fight, and that’s what they did. During the heat of the battle, they weren’t thinking about the government. They were fighting to say alive and fighting for the guys next to them in the foxhole. In a life and death situation like that, it’s all about camaraderie with your fellow soldiers.

Contact Us So We Can Help!

We’re extremely thankful and grateful for all our Veterans who are currently serving and have served this great country. Without them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms that we have today. We are also very thankful for the families and spouses of Veterans who were trying to keep things together here on the home front.

If you need assistance with VA disability benefits or the appeals process, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. You can also send us an email to [email protected].

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