Veterans Entitled to Benefits Have to Wait Years to Receive Them -- Legendary Attorney and Veteran Don Marcari Urges Appeals Process Reform

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Following an appearance by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki before the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, Veteran’s Affairs (VA) benefits have received additional attention. The new goal of the VA is to process all claims in 125 days by 2015. However, processed claims include those that are accepted and those that are denied, and often the accepted claims are appealed due to low ratings. The long, arduous appeal process currently takes an average 1,123 days according to the Board of Veterans Affairs and veterans have no recourse but to wait for their case to be reviewed.

Our veterans are waiting for years to receive their benefits with little recourse or support in the meantime.

In recent weeks, Veteran’s Affairs (VA) benefits have been covered by several national outlets following an appearance by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki before the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. On Tuesday, July 24, Shinseki stated that the VA is “working hard and smart” to eliminate the claims backlog. Their goal is to process all claims in 125 days by 2015. “While this goal is a step in the right direction, there are bigger issues that still need to be addressed,” said Navy veteran and attorney Don Marcari, whose firm is representing many veterans through their appeals process. “The VA defines ‘processed’ as any claim that has been approved or denied. This includes approved claims that are rated below where they should be due to insufficient support in the veteran’s claim. However, the bigger issue faced by many veterans is the delay in the appeals process.”

According to the Board of Veterans Affairs (BVA), the appeal process for a claim takes an average 1,123 days. This delay leaves thousands of veterans without benefits for several years as their appeal is pushed through the claims procedure. (This is a best-case scenario since many cases are remanded by the BVA for further development, which takes an average additional 427 days). In 2010, nearly 70% of the claims that were received by the BVA had errors that affected the approval or rating, increasing the time to process as well.

Filing for benefits is a complicated process for most veterans and many are inexperienced in filling out this type of paperwork. Claims manuals are often thousands of pages long and veterans are not allowed to receive legal assistance on their initial claims. In addition, claims are denied frequently because they are not properly developed to allow for accurate rating evaluation, and many of the ones that are approved receive a low rating. As a result, hundreds of thousands of veterans file a Form 9 to appeal the rating or denial of their claim.

“We can attribute extended delays to a combination of several factors including the complexity of the claims system, the veteran’s lack of understanding of and resources to properly develop a complex claim, and the fact that the VA is grossly understaffed to meet the demands of the current veteran population,” said Marcari. Portrayed by Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men,” Don Marcari’s reputation for tenaciously seeking truth and justice is legendary. “While hiring an attorney can significantly cut down on the time for an appeal, it is more important that we address the issues with the initial process so that fewer veterans need to seek appeals on their claims. Our veterans are waiting for years to receive their benefits with little recourse or support in the meantime.”

For more information on veteran’s benefits and the claims process, please visit http://youtu.be/cqHxlGrKzm4. Members of the media may contact Randy Nordstrom at 757-575-9888 or via email at randy(at)focusdmg(dot)com for interview opportunities with Don Macari. Veterans who are interested in receiving assistance with their appeals can reach Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban at 866-866-VETS or visit their website at http://www.veteransbenefitslawfirm.net.

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Randy Nordstrom

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