VA tries to speed claims processing for vets

Tuesday - 6/15/2010, 1:31pm EDT

By Meg Beasley
Federal News Radio

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is implementing changes it says will help simplify and speed the process for veterans seeking compensation for disabilities related to their military service. The news comes as the Department is working to cut the large claims backlog it has accumulated.

"These reductions in paperwork, along with other improvements to simplify and speed the claims process, symbolize changes underway to make VA more responsive to Veterans and their families," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki says.

The application for first-time benefit seekers, VA Form 21-526, has been cut to less than half its old length. The VA says it also clarified Form 21-526b, the form for veterans looking for increased benefits for already claimed disabilities. Both forms are available on the VA's Web site.

The VA is also trying to speed the claims process with two new forms for veterans participating in the fully developed claim (FDC) program, what the Department says is one of the fastest ways to receive a claims decision. The two new forms include VA Form 21-526EZ for a compensation claim and VA Form 21-527EZ for a pension claim.

Veterans must complete a certification to enroll in the FDC program before using either of the new forms. Once enrolled, VA says veterans can use FDC forms to make sure their claims are submitted correctly and processed as quickly as possible.

The FDC program grew out of the fact that gathering the information and evidence needed to support a claim takes the largest part of the processing time. The VA hopes the forms will help the Department collect all of the necessary information up front allowing claims to be processed faster.

Meg Beasley is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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