Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Veterans groups sue VA over claims delays

Two national veteran advocacy groups have sued the Department of Veterans Affairs over what they call "unconscionable delays" in the resolution of disability claims.

Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare this week filed suit in federal court in Washington saying it takes an average of a year or longer for the VA to decide a veteran's initial claim.

If rejected, the suit said, a veteran can wait an average of nearly 4.5 years for a VA appeals board to hear the case. And 50 percent of those appeals are ultimately successful.

The suit asks the court to force the VA to decide claims in 90 days and appeals within six months and then pay interim benefits pending those decisions.

"Veterans are getting jerked around left and right by a system that is supposed to be helping them," Minneapolis lawyer Robert Cattanach, who is handling the litigation, said on Wednesday. "Veterans shouldn't suffer because the VA can't fix its claims process."

A VA spokesman in Washington declined to comment and refused to discuss even generally delays in disability claims.

The VA previously has noted that it decides initial claims in an average of six months. "We know their numbers are not honest," Cattanach said.

For example, if a veteran dies three months after filing for benefits, the VA counts the case as resolved. And the VA doesn't count the time a veteran waits before they are discharged.

Many veterans file claims months before leaving the service.

The lawsuit comes as the VA continues to investigate the improper shredding of claims documents in two-thirds of its 57 regional benefits office, including its busiest at Bay Pines in St. Petersburg.

Nationally, the VA found about 500 documents critical in deciding a veteran's claim improperly set aside for shredding — 13 of those in St. Petersburg.

Veterans groups have complained that this one-time survey points to the possibility that untold thousands of documents have been shredded for years, immeasurably delaying claims.

The suit compared the private health insurance market with the VA, which in 2007 received 838,141 claims for benefits from veterans. (About 9 in 10 are ultimately granted.)

The private market processes 30-billion claims annually, typically in less than three months, the suit said.

Bay Pines is the home benefits office for Florida's 1.7-million veterans and handled about 60,000 claims last year.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or at (813) 269-5306

Veterans groups sue VA over claims delays 11/12/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 10:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Senator Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa
  2. Video: How to make a Gin and Jam cocktail

    Bars & Spirits

    Looking for an easy cocktail to make at home this summer? Jam is a simple, low-key way to get the job done.

  3. Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala, far right, said she was "very well pleased" with her lawyer's case. "I violated no laws." [STEVE BOUSQUET | Times]
  4. PSTA foresees no cutbacks in bus service through 2021

    Transportation

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority budget unveiled the first look at next year's budget on Wednesday and the agency said it does not project any cuts to bus service through 2021.

    A Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus leaves the terminal at  3180 Central Ave. in St Petersburg in 2014. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  5. Rubio: Critics distorting facts on Senate health care bill

    Blogs

    Sen. Marco Rubio this morning defended the Senate GOP health care proposal -- though still not saying definitively he's in support -- and accused critics of distorting facts about the number of people who could lose coverage.