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Oakland VA Mishandled 13,000 Informal Claims

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) illustrates the uncertainty that veterans face when applying for VA disability benefits. A vet can have a fully developed claim with no errors or omissions and still be unable to obtain needed benefits in a timely way. And it is not the veteran’s fault.

The internal watchdog agency at the Department of Veterans Affairs found more than 13,000 disability claims “tucked away in a filing cabinet,” according to the story. The result was that some veterans did not receive the benefits to which they were entitled. The basic problem at the Oakland VA was poor record-keeping.

What Are Informal Claims?

The 13,000-plus claims, found in October 2012, were so-called informal claims that notify the VA of the intent to apply for benefits. The advantage to the veteran who files an informal claim is that it establishes the effective date of the claim, even though the vet has not yet gathered all the required supporting evidence. Establishing the effective date in this way allows the vet to receive benefits back to the effective date established by the informal claim if benefits are ultimately granted.

Consequences of Oakland Claims Mishandling

It is likely that many of the veterans’ informal claims found in the filing cabinet were never connected to actual claims later filed by veterans, causing them to receive a smaller reactive award because the effective date was the filing of the actual claim, rather than the earlier informal claim.

Not All Claims Properly Handled After Being Found

Some of the informal claims found in the Oakland office were from the 1990s. To correct the situation, the Oakland VA developed a project to address these claims. However, poor management of the project resulted in at least 500 claims …read more

Read more here:: The Rep for Vets – VA Benefits Blog

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