VA Center for Innovation Releases Report on the Veteran Appeals Experience
In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation released a findings report entitled Veteran Appeals Experience: Listening to the Voices of Veterans and their Journey in the Appeals System. The stated goal of the study was “to better understand how veterans experience the appeals process and how the process fits into the context of their lives.”
The report begins by noting that more than one million veterans file claims with the VA each year, and more than 100,000 will appeal the decision, a process that could last years and even decades. The report also says that “tens of thousands of rules” have created a system of “staggering complexity” and a process so fraught with “permutations” that it is “barely comprehensible to experts.”
A team of six researchers spoke at length with more than 90 veterans who had been through the appeals process. Their period of service ranged from WWII to Iraq and Afghanistan. Key themes that emerged from this discourse were:
- The length and labor of the process takes a toll on veterans’ lives.
- Veterans care deeply about the outcomes of other veterans.
- Veterans feel alone in a process they don’t understand.
- The appeals process feels like a fight.
- Veterans want to be heard.
Clearly, a system that was “designed for an earlier time and a different set of challenges” is not adequately meeting the needs of our veterans’ community. What the veterans involved in the study want for themselves and their fellow veterans boiled down to seven points:
- A simple, timely system capable of responding to their changing needs
- A change in the process
- To understand the process
- Communication from the VA in language the vets can understand
- Respect and trust
- A personal approach and an advocate
- Acknowledgement of their service and sacrifice
Unfortunately, the process as it exists is impersonal at best and adversarial at worst. That’s why the accredited veterans’ rights attorneys at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban fight so hard for our clients. Until the VA changes to meet veterans’ needs as expressed in the report, we stand as their advocates, to help them understand the process, to give them the respect they deserve, and to recognize their service to our country. If you are facing the VA appeals process, don’t go through it alone. Call Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, from anywhere in the nation at 866-866-VETS or contact our office online.