Veterans Affairs (VA) system problems aren't just rumors. There's no shortage of confirmed scandals involving healthcare and claim system mismanagement, which only gives credence to past anecdotes. There's always a new policy or speech about it, but even if you want to change the entire system, you should be working on your personal claim at the same time. Multitasking isn't that hard in this case, so consider a few ways to protect your appeal rights while bringing the VA closer to accountability.
Claim And Appeal Delays
The VA is required to notify veterans if a delay occurs during their claim or appeal process. If you call the VA benefits hotline (1-800-827-1000) or visit the eBenefits website, you will get different notices detailing your expected decision date, and you should receive a letter if your decision will be delayed beyond that point.
Decision can take months, and the reason has been debated multiple times at the Congressional level. It's national news--even world news, as the US military has culture and former members that reach far beyond just wartime activities--so you don't have much legal redress within 3 or 4 months.
Your legal challenge comes when your claim has been delayed more than once. You shouldn't have to wait for more than a year on a single claim. If it takes that long, the regional office needs to ask for help from someone else.
The normal path to getting help in a delay is to contact the previously mentioned VA benefits hotline, called the 1000 line by some. Explain that you received a delay letter, and that it's been over a month since receiving the letter. In a standard situation, you should receive a decision or a direct contact from the office handling your claim within a week.
Don't let a single day pass without getting a new answer. A year is too long to be patient, but a month is enough time to contact on a weekly basis for updates. If you're delayed two months past the delay lawyer, get a lawyer and put them on the task.
Suspicious Denials After Delays
Just because your claim was delayed doesn't mean it was going to be approved. You could receive a denial after waiting for a long time just because your evidence wasn't strong enough. That said, it's possible that office misconduct lead to denying your claim without trying to work on it just to clear the queue.
That's not just paranoia or negativity. Any office is capable of faking their way through work, and there's proof of documents being destroyed as well as unqualified doctors making decisions. Your VA claim or appeal is handled by a board that considers medical advice, and it's the statements of these doctors that decides if your claim succeeds or not.
If you know that you had exact evidence pointing to your condition from a qualified doctor and proof that the military is involved in official writing--not a handwritten note or document drafter in Microsoft Word--go to an attorney immediately. It takes luck and an agreeable office to succeed by arguing alone, and if you were delayed and denied, you're likely working against the system.
Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible and discuss your situation. With their help, you can pinpoint what you may have missed, get your benefits, and gain valuable evidence to fight the system while helping those in the system who do great things.