As many veterans know all too well, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claim process can be extensive and frustrating. The VA reports that there are currently over 360,000 claims waiting for a rating decision, and it can take years to obtain a verdict on disability benefits. The average VA claim can take anywhere from two to five years.
The good news is that there are certain instances where a veteran may request that his or her claims be expedited. The three allowable reasons are listed below:
1. The age of the veteran. The age requirement for expedition can differ depending upon where your claim is pending. If you’re filing an initial claim or have a claim pending before the Regional Office, it may be expedited if you’re 85 years of age or older. If your claim is pending before the Board of Veterans' Appeals, it may be expedited if you’re 75 years of age or older.
To receive early treatment, you’ll need to submit a motion to advance your case, along with a copy of your driver's license, birth certificate or other government identification to the appropriate office.
2. Terminal illness. If you’re suffering from a life-threatening disease—such as stage IV cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, heart failure, or mesothelioma—your claim may be expedited. VA is instructed to prioritize claims in which the claimant is terminally ill. You’ll need to submit a motion to advance your case to the appropriate office, along with a physician's note identifying your health condition and prognosis.
3. Extreme financial hardship or homelessness. Many veterans can face severe financial hardship due to service-related conditions that prevent them from gaining proper employment. If you’re experiencing extreme financial adversity and are waiting on a decision from the VA, you may qualify for expeditious treatment. Examples of hardship include not being able to afford food or shelter, receiving an eviction notice or foreclosure on your home, or having your utilities cut off.
If this applies to you, you’ll need to complete the VA's Financial Status Report Form 5655, along with copies of similar evidence, such as print-outs of past-due bills, bank statements, collection notices, or eviction notices. If the VA determines that the evidence you submitted is sufficient, they will expedite your file.
Have you been denied benefits as a veteran or believe you deserve a higher rating? The experienced lawyers at Hrabcak & Company are available 24/7 to hear your case. Visit their website www.hrabcaklaw.com or contact them at 614-781-1400 for a free consultation.