One of the biggest problems facing veterans today is the VA. An agency that was designed specifically to help the people who need (and deserve) it the most has, for many reasons, been failing at an alarming rate. It has become so bad, that by many estimates, tens of thousands of veterans are dying every year, waiting for benefits. How has it become so bad, and why are these issues preventing so many veterans from getting the care and benefits they need?
More than half-a-million veterans are stuck. A recent count, taken less than 6 months ago, counted more than 600,000 veterans waiting in line for assistance they desperately need from the VA. These aren’t short waits either. Most of these veterans find themselves having to wait a month or more just to get an appointment at VA hospitals and clinics.
While some reports show that the longest waits, those over four months, have been cut down substantially, this isn’t because the VA is getting more efficient. Instead, these numbers are coming down because veterans are seeking out care on their own, forgoing the benefits they earned while serving our country.
With more veterans returning from service every month, it’s almost impossible to imagine that things are going to get better any time soon. Considering that more than 60 VA facilities are still averaging wait times of more than 60 days, it’s frightening to think about it getting worse.
2: Poor record keeping
Imagine desperately needing something simple, like a few pieces of paper, in order to help turn your life around. Then, when you ask for that information, trusting that the people responsible for holding on to it can quickly and easily access it, you get blank stares and endless runaround.
This is the unfortunate reality of many veterans who need nothing more than their military medical records in order to file for disability benefits. The problem has become so bad that several veterans have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs alleging that they have waited more than two years just to receive this paperwork.
3: Endless, prolonged reviews
Did you know that even after many veterans have jumped through all of the necessary hoops and pulled together all of the information they need to file a claim for benefits, most of them are a long way from getting the help they need? One of the biggest reasons for this is because of reviews. And these reviews aren’t quick.
In fact, more than half of all VA disability appeal cases are sent back for reviews according to recent reports. That means that nearly 300,000 veterans are at the mercy of the review process, after waiting countless days just to file the original claim. To make matters worse, Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada told reporters that the average wait time for these decision is more than 1,200 days.
The problem only looks to get worse: As backlogs continue to pile up, VA employees are rushing through more and more claims, greatly reducing the accuracy and increasing the likelihood that the claim will be denied or flagged for review.
4: Internal pressure and corruption
The men and women who serve this country in the armed forces are undoubtedly the toughest-of-the-tough. Putting their lives on the line every day to protect the freedoms we enjoy naturally breeds this attitude, but a disturbing trend may be taking it a bit too far.
In the Army, many who seek and receive medical treatment are known as “Sick Call Rangers.” While it may seem like good-natured ribbing to some, joking about seeking medical attention to get out of PT, it’s a serious problem with many veterans.
In order to receive the benefits that many veterans will need after they complete their service, they simply must seek this medical attention and get their injury documented. But when commanding officers encourage the “teasing” of those who seek medical attention, like in this running cadence, soldiers may be discouraged from seeking the attention they need and deserve.
It gets even worse than that. Stories of corruption from within the VA are becoming more commonplace. Recently, Newsweek released a story detailing how whistleblowers within the VA, who were raising concerns over many of the issues plaguing the VA, are being retaliated against. In fact, it is alleged that these officials are using the employees’ own medical records against them, in order to try to discredit their claims of abuse and corruption. These aren’t isolated cases either. According to Carolyn Lerner from the Office of Special Counsel, in the last year alone, more than 80 cases of retaliation against these whistleblowers have been uncovered.
5: Lack of assistance cutting through the red tape
With the myriad problems facing veterans in their quest to receive the care and benefits that they deserve, it’s hard not to get discouraged. It seems that every step of the way, veterans are faced with mountains of red tape, redundant forms, requests for information that it is nearly impossible to obtain in a timely manner, and other problems that almost seemed designed to turn our veterans away.
Thankfully, there is help available. Having someone on your side is practically a necessity these days. Someone who is versed in the complicated ways to slice through the bureaucracy, who will fight to get our veterans the care and benefits they so richly deserve, and who will not be discouraged or intimidated by the daunting process.
To find out more about finding the help you need to get the benefits you deserve, click here.