The Veterans Affairs Department is getting sued over a claim filing method that veteran organizations say will hurt ill and injured veterans.
At issue is the VA's decision to get rid of an informal claims process that allowed a veteran to backdate the beginning of their claim to when they first contacted the VA to ask for benefits, whether by sending a letter or medical document.
The new system – which went into effect March 24 - requires all veterans use a standardized series of forms that the groups say will take longer and force veterans to go without needed benefits as they navigate a new and confusing system.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans filed the lawsuit May 6 to force the VA to accept the old system as well.
"The VFW doesn't oppose the use of standardized forms," said VFW director of National Veterans Service William Bradshaw. "Our opposition is to this all or nothing approach that VA is forcing on veterans — changes, that if left in place, will guarantee in this year alone that tens of thousands of service-connected wounded, ill and injured veterans will be denied benefits they were entitled to before the change became effective."
The final rule applies to all pension, compensation, dependency, indemnity compensation and monetary burial benefits. The VA says the new process will improve processing speed, and the resulting forms can be uploaded to web-based systems to improve turnaround times and minimize the loss of documents.
The VFW, DAV, and other veterans' service organizations fought against the change after VA first proposed it in October 2013, according to the VFW, which says the new system does not benefit veterans at all.
"The VA is once again changing the rules to make the claims process easier for them, not for the veterans the VA was created to serve," Bradshaw said.