As an increasing number of active duty service members return from abroad, more and more of them are being forced into early retirement by an injury or mental illness. Injuries and mental illness have become more common among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans than they were for previous generations of veterans. This has required a higher level of benefits for many and for a larger number than in the past.
Unfortunately, our benefits system through the Veterans Administration has not caught up to the demand. The average active duty service member in the Army waits 427 days for a decision on a benefits request. While this is a significant improvement from the average of 540 days that people were waiting in 2007, many policymakers and veteran’s advocates still believe that this is too long of a delay for our returning heroes.
One of the main problems of the system as it stands now, aside from the long wait times, is the evaluation system for disability claims. Veterans who are clearly too injured to continue to serve are often still cleared for service, and others who are found to be disabled are not given high enough ratings to qualify for benefits.
The system is apparently designed to prevent abuse through stringent standards, but it seems that it is also causing delays and denials for legitimate claims.
Experts advise that veterans take time and carefully complete disability benefits applications to ultimately save time and energy dealing with a denial or delay. It’s also important for veterans to look at the other government benefits that are available to them.
More information about benefits planning for veterans is available on our Texas law firm’s website.
Source: NBC News, “Red tape entangles injured service members who can no longer deploy,” Rebecca Ruiz, August 22, 2012.