The Department of Veterans Affairs is set to introduce new forms that aim to clearly identify the disability claims and appeals of veterans and their survivors, officials announced Wednesday.
The goal of the new forms is to standardize the process through which claims are filed, and make it easier for veterans and survivors to state what they are seeking from VA, according to a news release. VA’s updated forms are expected to take out some of the guesswork on the part of applicants, which is often the cause of delays.
“We must do everything that we can to make it as fast and easy as possible for veterans and their survivors to file for and receive an accurate decision on their claim,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in the release. “Our veterans and survivors will know, at the outset of the claims process, what is needed, which removes subjective interpretation from the process. We want to eliminate any barriers that make it difficult for our veterans or survivors to receive benefits to which they are entitled.”
Earlier this year, VA said it had reduced the backlog of disability claims by 44 percent, compared to one year earlier. However, problems persisted, with more than half of the pending cases falling into the “backlogged” category.
In 2012, the average delay for a veteran to have an appeal decided was 675 days. By the end of 2013, it was 923 days.
The hope is the transition to standardized forms will not only reduce processing times, but also make VA claims more consistent with other applications from both government and non-government organizations, such as those for social security, jobs or tax refunds.
Previously, a veteran or survivor was not required to use a particular form for VA claims. Claims could be submitted to VA on any piece of paper, leading to missing information and resulting delays.
“These days, government agencies and private businesses rely on standard forms to deliver faster and more accurate customer service,” said Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey, in the release. “VA’s ability to deliver better customer service requires the use of standard forms as well. That is why we worked extensively with our partners in the veterans community to streamline the way we process claims while preserving the effective date rules concerning informal claims through the creation of a new intent to file a claim process.”
Another change to the claims procedure includes a new “Intent to File a Claim” process, which gives veterans or their survivors one year to gather necessary documentation or evidence to support the claim while keeping an effective date of claim.
The new regulations for VA claims forms are set to be implemented in late March 2015.