Intro

Discover the latest news affecting YOUR military disability right here!

Since the majority of our news will cover legal issues that can be dragged out for a long time, if you'd like an update on an issue, let us know, and we'll do what we can. Most of the time, no post=no update.

This page is strictly for the latest and upcoming news. If you are looking for specific information about the current disability system or your disability, see our blog or our website, www.MilitaryDisabilityMadeEasy.com, for all the answers you'll need.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

What has Covid done to the VA’s Backlog?

The VA’s notorious claims backlog seems like a never-ending issue. And it might well be.  

The VA’s goal is to process all claims within 125 days, so claims become “backlogged” once they have been pending for more than 125 days.

 

Over the last decade, the VA has revamped their entire claims process and instituted numerous new policies, all with the goal of decreasing the backlog. 

 

Overall, these changes have worked. The backlog in 2013 was over 611,000 claims. Ridiculously high. By 2015, the VA had decreased the backlog to less than 100,000. That’s a massive reduction. Since that time, they have been able to successfully keep the backlog below 100,000... until March 2020.

 

During this time, while the backlog of claims decreased, the backlog of appeals did not. By 2016, the backlog for VA appeals had reached more than 400,000. 

 

To address this appeals backlog, the VA revamped the entire appeals system in February 2019. From February 2019 to February 2020, the new appeals system decreased the backlog from 425,000 to 174,000. 

 

All the new changes the VA made to both their claims and appeals processes were severely tried when the pandemic shut things down in March 2020. 

 

With the difficulties in getting necessary exams and records, as well as staffing and logistical issues, the claim backlog grew to over 200,000 and is expected to reach 260,000 by the end of October, while the appeals backlog grew to over 200,000 appeals.

 

These numbers are still far below the 600,000 and 400,000 that existed before the VA’s changes, but they still demonstrate a significant setback in the progress that had been made. 

 

The VA has now put a plan in place to get the claims backlog back to its pre-Covid numbers under 100,000 by April 2024. Starting this month, the VA will be hiring 2,000 new employees to work solely on claims processing. They will also be using funds from the American Rescue Plan to allow for overtime so that employees can process more claims in a timely manner. 

 

While this progress will take a few years and an end to the backlog is still not in sight, hopefully these changes will help the VA recover from the setbacks imposed by the pandemic so that veterans can receive their essential benefits ASAP.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Extended Deadline for Gulf War Presumptive List

On September 14th, the VA officially extended the deadline for conditions on the Gulf War Presumptive List. 


The VA has numerous Presumptive Lists that consist of conditions that are automatically considered service-connected if a veteran served in certain circumstances. These circumstances range from serving in a location during a specific time to being exposed to things like Agent Orange or radiation.

 

The Gulf War Presumptive List allows veterans who served in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan during the Gulf War to receive benefits for certain conditions that develop after their military service.

 

The list includes conditions like Gulf War Syndrome and multi-symptom illnesses, which must qualify for a 10% rating before the deadline in order to be considered service-connected. 

 

Not all of the Presumptive Lists have deadlines, but the Gulf War Presumptive List does. Previously, the deadline was December 31, 2021, but in the new regulation published yesterday, the VA pushed back the deadline by 5 years to December 31, 2026. 

 

This is not the first time the VA’s extended this deadline. Since the Gulf War is ongoing, keeping the previous deadline would deny future Gulf War veterans their much-deserved benefits. In the regulation, the VA also acknowledges that the research regarding these conditions “remains inconclusive regarding the time of onset of undiagnosed and other illnesses related to Persian Gulf War service.” 

 

By extending the deadline, the VA is ensuring that Gulf War vets who develop these conditions will be able to receive their benefits, and the VA is allowing more time for further research regarding Gulf War conditions. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The 3 new Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions – When will you get your benefits?!


Last week, the VA issued a press release stating that they were finally going to “begin implementing provisions” to get Vietnam-Era vets benefits for the three new conditions on the Agent Orange Presumptive List:  bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism.  

However, this statement is still incredibly vague. The VA has not yet replied to our requests for further information, and their official page on the Agent Orange Presumptive List still does not include these three new conditions (nor do any of the federal code archives, for that matter, despite the fact that the statute adding these conditions was officially made law in January).

 

So what does this all mean? The truth:  We don’t really know.

 

While we may not have firm answers for everything, here is what we DO know and what we can surmise from it.

 

Yes, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism are officially on the Agent Orange Presumptive List. 

 

There’s been evidence linking these conditions to Agent Orange for years, but various political issues have kept the VA from adding them to the official list. So Congress took matters into their own hands and added them directly to the list without going through the VA. The conditions were included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 which was made law on January 1, 2021. 

 

So if the conditions are legally on the Presumptive List, why aren’t they appearing anywhere official? 

 

Great question! There isn’t a clear answer for this, but here is what we think based on previous changes to the Presumptive List. 

 

As mentioned before, usually changes to the Presumptive List come directly from the VA, so the VA has time to get a game plan in place before making the changes official. Since the change came directly from Congress, however, the VA did not have the same ability to get their policies and procedures ready to go to handle the new claims for these conditions.

 

Shortly after the law was passed in January, VA officials said it could take them up to 2 years to get their system set up that would give qualifying veterans access to these new benefits. 

 

We’re assuming that although the three conditions are officially on the Presumptive List now, they have not been added to official sources yet simply because the VA’s system is not yet ready to implement the new law. 

 

Will it really take 2 years before veterans can get their benefits for these conditions?

 

It could. However, we don’t think it will. 

 

The VA has been under significant pressure to get their system setup ASAP so veterans can start getting their benefits, and it sounds like they are doing just that. 

 

The press release from last week shows that they are starting to get their system in place (“begin implementing provisions”) to process these claims. It, unfortunately, did not state that they had the system in place and were ready to go, just that it was beginning. It also did not give any hint of a timeline on when things would be set.

 

So, could it still take until January 2023? Yes, but we are optimistic that it won’t take that long.

 

What if I submitted a claim for these conditions previously and was denied? 

 

Good news! The VA will be automatically reviewing all previously denied claims for these three conditions. As long as your claim has enough evidence to show that you qualify for the Agent Orange Presumptive List, the VA will grant you benefits without having to reapply. 

 

We do not have a timeline on when this review will begin, but the VA has said that they will notify any eligible veterans (and survivors) by mail. 

 

So... can I submit a new claim for these conditions now or not?

 

There is no clear answer for this one, but here is what we suggest. 

 

Yes, go ahead and submit a claim if you have not claimed these conditions before but do meet the requirements for the Presumptive List. 

 

While the VA does not have their policies ready to go yet for these claims, the law is in place allowing these conditions as of January. So even if the VA isn’t able to grant your claim right now, they will eventually have to evaluate it under the new law. 

 

Since the effective date of your benefits is determined by when you submit your claim, if you submit now, you’ll ultimately get an earlier effective date than if you wait to submit until they say they are ready to go. The claim might be in limbo for a bit, but ultimately, you’ll get your benefits at an earlier effective date. 

 

We believe the VA hasn’t publicly opened for submission yet simply because they don’t want to be inundated with claims they aren’t prepared to handle, but they legally cannot deny claims for these conditions any longer.