Iraq and Afghanistan Conflicts Put a Strain on Veterans' Benefits

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POSTED: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 3:33pm

UPDATED: Monday, October 29, 2012 - 11:00am

More and more troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are finding that due to overwhelming demand, their VA disability benefits are being denied. As a veteran you deserve the benefits accorded by your service and there are ways you can ensure you are successful in your claim.

Many veterans are experiencing unacceptable difficulties and delays in obtaining their VA disability benefits due to a backlog in claims that has only grown worse with the influx of new claims submitted by troops who suffered some form of service-related injury. Here is an outlook on VA disability claims by the numbers:

  • 1.6 million - the number of veterans returning from the Iraq War and War in Afghanistan.
  • 45% - the percentage of those veterans who are seeking disability benefits.
  • 560,000 - the number of cases backlogged for benefits to veterans of all wars.
  • 8 months - the average amount of time to process a new claim filed as of 5/27/2012.
  • 400,000 - the number of veterans treated by the VA for mental health problems, most often PTSD.
  • 70% - the percentage of veteran benefits that are denied.

If your claim has been denied don't assume that the decision is final. Too often veterans implicitly trust the effectiveness of a system that is utterly unable or unwilling to perform its duties.

The application to obtain VA disability benefits is a whopping 23 pages long and any incorrect or incomplete information can be used as grounds for dismissal or to postpone the claims by requiring a resubmission of a properly filled out form which begins the arduously lengthy process again.

Fortunately you have options to fight for your benefits even if they have been denied. If you are dissatisfied with the results of your claim you may submit an appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeal, which will review whether or not your claim should have been denied. Even in the event that the Board confirms the denial of your claim you can pursue higher judgment by appealing to the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Before you begin the appeals process, however, it is vitally important to determine why you may have been denied and if there is any further evidence or documentation you can provide to bolster your case. You only have one year following the date of a ratings decision to appeal so you must prepare as quickly as possible.

First determine that all of your paperwork is correct and proper medical documentation of your injuries is included. Often medical proof that you are disabled won't be enough; if you have been denied on the basis that your injuries are not service-related you may need to include "buddy statements" to prove the event that caused the disability.

Navigating the paperwork of the appeals process properly to best ensure your success may seem difficult, in which case you may want to seek out a disability lawyer, even if for a simple consultation. These advocates have filed countless claims for fellow veterans who have been denied and can help.

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