23 October 2014

If my experience is typical, the VA is failing our veterans in the most basic way

I receive VA disability payments because I was diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea while I was in the Navy. My payment is a fixed amount which is adjusted (slightly) based on dependents. In my case, a dependent adds about $40 a month to the payment I receive.

When our son Michael was born in 2009, I contacted the VA to add him as a dependent because I would be entitled to this additional $40 per month. Knowing that the VA processes are glacially slow, I more or less forgot about it after I filed it. Unfortunately, at some point, this seems to have gotten lost (of course).

About two and a half years ago, I realized that my original claim had disappeared and was nowhere in the system. So I filed another claim. Using the VA's eBenefits website, I could actually track this claim. The VA estimated that my claim would be adjudicated within a few months. Well, those few months came and went.

Yesterday, I received a letter that the VA had made a decision on the claim that I filed over two years ago. I also received a deposit for the difference between the amount I should have been receiving and what I actually received. The claim was retroactive, but only to August 1, 2012 (presumably, the date that the VA originally processed my second claim), not to Michael's original birthday in 2009.

To be sure, this was not a difficult claim to resolve. It's a simple matter of showing that 1) Michael exists; and 2) he is my dependent. It should not take over two years to resolve.

This anecdote wasn't a crisis for me. Although I feel old, I am still (relatively) young and generally in good health. I am fortunate to receive disability payments but do not need to rely on them. I can file another claim and wait two more years. Or I can decide that it's not worth the time and effort. But what about the less well off? Do our aging veterans have 2 years (or more) to wait for the VA to resolve their claims? Can they afford to forgo the entitlements they earned while waiting for a decision?

Whether they were drafted or chose to serve, the men and women who fought for our country deserve better.
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