Make us your home page

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 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

  1. Estuary wins pier design contest for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway extension

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — And the winner is… Estuary.

    Voters overwhelmingly supported a pier design called Estuary for the $200-million extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa.
[Courtesy of AECOM]
  2. What to watch and listen to this week: Halloween offerings, best spooky podcasts


    Halloween is all about scary stories. The holiday itself is based on a compilation of creepy tales from history going back thousands of years.

    The Halloween kids classic The Nightmare Before Christmas airs this week on Freeform.
  3. Fennelly: Would you take Jameis Winston over Cam Newton?


    Factoring out futures, it wouldn't be a short list if I picked NFL quarterbacks I'd take right now over Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) calls a play during the first half of Sunday's game. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Man faces charge of abuse after 2-month-old injured


    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 2-month-old child was taken to All Children's Hospital with multiple skull fractures Saturday afternoon, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, and a 24-year-old man has been arrested.

    Jacob Brattain, 24, of Zephyrhills is charged with aggravated child abuse and was arrested Sunday. According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, a 2-month-old child suffered multiple skull fractures under his care.
  5. Amazon receives 238 proposals from places eager to become its 2nd headquarters


    NEW YORK — Amazon said Monday that it received 238 proposals from cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Mexico hoping to be the home of the company's second headquarters.

    Earlier this month, an Amazon employee gives her dog a biscuit as the pair head into a company building, where dogs are welcome, in Seattle. Amazon says it received 238 proposals from cities and regions hoping to be the home of the company's second headquarters. 
[AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]