The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved a proposal — the Pay As You Rate Act — that would help some veterans get at least a portion of their disability compensation in a shorter amount of time.
By now, most are well-aware of the significant backlog of disability benefits claims in most regional VA offices. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., is now arguing that one of the reason for the delays is because, of the claims veterans file with the VA, some could be easily decided and some are more complicated. She is the sponsor of the Pay As You Rate Act, which would apparently call for regional offices to decide the easy claims while deferring a decision on the more complex claims. It is unclear if this means that there would be some kind of a front-line team in place at regional offices to identify and adjudicate non-complex claims, or if an adjudicator would simply open a file, review it, and then decide the ones that he could at that time and put off deciding the rest until some future date.
What About the VA Disability Appeals Process?
This plan overlooks one major problem: much of the delay present in the claims process is occurring on the appeals side, not the initial claims side. If VA truly wants to reduce its backlog, it needs to make more of an effort to decide claims on appeal. Right now, it can take years to get a decision on an appeal, which is completely unacceptable. Veterans with legitimate claims who were erroneously denied by a front-line adjudicator are thus forced to wait, and wait, and wait some more, to finally achieve resolution. Congress needs to be aware that some of the biggest problems are taking place on appeals.