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Increased Denials=increased Appeals. Must Read.

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This article was taken from Vawatchdog.com. Whats your take on whats going on here...Wow. Here is proof that denials have increased!

Chief judge warns of backlog of disability appeals, delays in federal veterans court

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A special federal court that hears veterans’ disability appeals is facing its highest caseload ever as the government increasingly turns down benefits for war veterans, its chief judge said Tuesday.

Judge William P. Greene Jr., who presides over the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, warned of a strained court that has had to recall five retired judges in recent months to assist with growing backlogs of veterans unhappy with the level of disability benefits assigned to them by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The seven-judge court is now averaging 300 appeals per month, which don’t include veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan because many of the cases haven’t reached the appeals level yet. If the court is to keep up, it will need more staff and building space, Greene told a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee.

"Our present space is or will be inadequate for the type of caseload we are now experiencing," he said. "Adequate space is crucial if we are to make efficient use of recalled judges and any future full-time active judges."

Greene’s comments come as a slew of congressional panels are studying ways to improve veterans care, including reducing backlogs of veterans seeking disability benefits. In a study earlier this year, Harvard professor Linda Bilmes said it took up to 177 days for the VA to process an initial claim and then an average of 657 days to process an appeal, resulting in significant hardship to veterans.

In the first half of the current fiscal year, the veterans court was among the busiest of the federal appeals courts. It saw 2,542 new appeals filed in six months, the highest ever, compared to 3,729 for all of the previous fiscal year.

Those numbers continued a sharp increase in appeals filed beginning in fiscal year 2005 as denial of benefits by the VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals jumped from 9,299 in 2004 to 13,033 in 2005. Last year, total denials reached 18,107, according to the court.

On Tuesday, Greene said the court is making efforts to reduce delays by regularly recalling retired judges, and working to implement an electronic case filing system to reduce paperwork.

It also is considering whether in some clear-cut cases it should make rulings without attaching an explanation.

But that won’t likely be enough, Greene said. He predicted many more appeals in the coming months and years, citing the complexity of cases of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with signs of post-traumatic stress disorder who may be denied benefits if the symptoms aren’t readily clear.

Brian Lawrence, a legislative director for the Disabled American Veterans group, criticized what he called the court’s overly deferential review of VA decisions on veterans’ claims, which he said added to delays.

Some two-thirds of the VA’s initial decisions are typically found to be in error by the court, but rather than overturning the decision and ordering payment of benefits, the court usually sends the appeal back to the VA to take a second look, Lawrence said.

Only in limited cases, after a ruling is deemed final, can a veteran appeal a ruling of the veterans court to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or the Supreme Court.

"Such a remand leaves unresolved the errors allegedly committed by the board, reopens the appeal to unnecessary development and further delay and further overburdens a system straining to meet growing backlogs," Lawrence told the House subcommittee.


On the Net:

U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims:


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  • HadIt.com Elder

What kills me is that in every step of the way the VA screws it up and sends it back down the line to fix.

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You know it is sad but I can see the Appeals court will get a large backlog like the other claims are backlogged at 600,000.

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There's a simple way to fix this: Hold the RO's accountable for their decisions. In my opinion, an RO is in contempt of congress every time they make a decision that is clearly erroneous. If someone files a claim with a 30 GAF and ALL of the evidence shows severe impairment, yet the RO hands down a 50% rating, the rater should have charges filed against him or her for contempt.

The reason so many cases are in limbo is because the RO knowingly makes ridiculous decisions to which they KNOW the BVA won't allow, but the BVA remands it back to the RO so the RO can make another stupid decision....during this multi-year process they hope that the veteran filing the claim gives up or dies off. It may sound brutal, but I bet it saves them millions/billions.

All of this can be stopped by simply holding the RO responsible for decisions that clearly violate VA regulations. But, as it stands now, the RO can do whatever it wants and there's not a single thing we can do about it.....if they do something blatantly wrong, the best we can do is hope the BVA fixes it (in several years).

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Jay is absolutely correct-

"There's a simple way to fix this: Hold the RO's accountable for their decisions"

Would any of you be willing to ask your Senators to either propose an amendment to the VCAA or to support an amendment from another Senator?

I have reworked my proposed amendment many times-

have to fit in Dingess Hartman stuff.

it would put the accountability for a great part of the remand backlog right in the ROs laps- where it began in the first place.

I will post the final draft that I am sending to Senator Schumer.

It can be used as a template of anyone is willing to ask their Senators to support a bill like this.

This also will make it a mandatory part of representation to have the NSO or vet rep actually read their copy of what the veteran gets under the VCAA.

I was told by my rep and even by the director of my POA (documented) that what I got was a legal VCAA letter.It is not at all in compliance with the VCAA. How many other claimants in NYS do they try to tell that too?

Their remands at the BVA under VCAA violation prove they allow this to occur and do nothing to question the VARO when the vet is left in limbo-without a proper VCAA statement and without an election notice.

I am anxious to know if anyone here is willing to contact their Senators about this type of amendment.

Every vet org is allowing this violation to occur without questioning it.

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Dingess Hartman- just to add- raised the level of RO response under the VCAA-

the earliest effective date as well as the potential degree of disability has to be stated in the VCAA Notice.

All explained here:

In most cases when the BVA sees that Dingess Hartman was violated- it does not raise to level of prejudicial error-

however, if the Dingess Hartman statement does not state a proper EED-and degree - the veteran has to wait until the claim is decided and then go through the NOD process (adding well over a year at Buffalo VARO) to have the EED and/or the degree of disability challenged.

Remember-too---- the VCAA letter to include the Dingess Hartman clauses is supposed to come PRIOR to any initial denial.

I thought widows were exempt from Dingess Hartman-

but we aren't-as long as the claim was filed after the VCAA of 2000.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

I have yet to receive any VCAA notice that listed either of the two added requirements.

I have asked for a revised notice, but so far it has been one year and the AMC has not sent this paper.

I never received anything from any R.O that was even a VCAA notice.

The closest hint to a filing date is in the remand which states:

Did the veteran file for benefits in 1978?


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