Buffalo, NY — Veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who have incurred either physical or mental disabilities due to their service are facing a new struggle — getting the disability benefits they deserve. As a consequence of improved trauma care and the effects of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) one out of every two returning servicemen and women apply for permanent disability. Better recognition of mental illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), has also increased the numbers of Veterans applying, and these numbers are overwhelming the Veterans Administration (VA).
“The VA has done a good job, but there are so many more claims they don’t have the budget to keep up,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing partner, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys at Law. “Fortunately, 67 Senators have recognized the issue and sent a letter to President Obama stating the necessity of speeding up the handling of these claims.”
The average wait for Veterans making their first disability claim is more than 300 days, but some wait 800 to 1,000 days for a decision from the VA.
“Although these Veterans receive back benefits, it can be extremely difficult for them financially while they are waiting for their claims to be decided,” Freedman said. “Since they will be facing these extended wait times, returning Vets should be aware they need to file their claims as early as possible. Delaying filing will just extend the time the Vet and his or her family goes without benefits.”
Claims should also be based on every medical problem resulting from service that the Veteran is dealing with, from clearcut physical disabilities such as loss of a limb, to depression caused by chronic pain and even sleep-apnea. Many Veterans suffer sleeping disorders that affect their ability to focus on a job as a result of their experiences in war.
“Individuals tend to minimize the effects of their injuries or mental state. They need to realize that their financial security depends on giving the VA the whole picture. In many cases they should turn to a legal professional who can help them sort it all out,” Freedman said. “If it turns out the claim doesn’t result from their service time, then it can always be withdrawn.”
Kay Hagen (N.C.-D.), one of the 67 senators who wrote to the President, said more than 7,000 Veterans have been waiting more than a year, and 700 have waited more than two years to receive benefits.
“The people who have served our country deserve better. When they agreed to military service, the nation made a promise their needs would be taken care of upon completion of active duty. The country needs to keep that promise in a much more timely manner than it is doing now,” Freedman said.