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VA claims, backlog update

By Raymond Taylor
SUN Columnist

America’s veterans can run into as many as 613 forms across 18 agencies as they seek services, according to a new report.

The American Action Forum found that paperwork needed for health benefits claims — in part the result of 31.2 million Veterans Affairs claims each year — takes federal employees roughly 43.3 million hours to process.

“Navigating 18 agencies and more than 600 forms has produced absurd results and unnecessary delays,” the report reads. The massive backlog at the Veterans Affairs has resulted in calls for change from the White House, Capitol Hill and the public. Other findings in the study:

• A disabled veteran seeking health and educational benefits could encounter up to 49 different forms, more than four hours of paperwork, and an aggregate cost of $125, assuming $31 per hour of compliance time.

• One collection, “Income-Net Worth and Employment Statement,” contains 40 questions, takes one hour to complete, and VA receives more than 104,000 responses every year.

• Four different agencies administer 12 million hours of paperwork related to veterans’ employment and training, imposing 24 different forms, at a cost of $892 million.

“VA, the Government Accounting Office and other agencies have already diagnosed the problem of overlap and duplication, but Veterans Affairs continues to struggle,” American Action wrote. “If Congress cannot fashion a legislative remedy, veterans will have to rely on the same system that has failed them repeatedly in the past.” The American Action Forum describes itself as “center-right,” and says it does not take positions on policy. (Source: Stars & Stripes, Article 3, July 2013 ).

Your Veterans Service Officer

The Veterans Service Officer acts on behalf of veterans, families of veterans, or other designated persons for a veteran’s interests, to assist with information and applications for the Department of Veteran Affairs benefits and services, in which may include the Department of Defense.

This office assists with all veteran-related matters in the community, including citizens interested in veterans information and assistance ensuring privacy of personal information.

This includes assisting in determining the best course of action to maximize any and all VA benefits a veteran, or veteran-related person, may be entitled to; determine appropriate application processes for VA benefits and claims; assist in the completion of applications and forms to apply for benefits, including medical, military service and all other information required.

This office further assists veterans with VA Health Care questions, or claims, and general information which affects the local veteran population.

Information

For further information on any VA Benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center, 451 Hot Springs Blvd.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for completing applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to, and a copy for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108: Second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa Street.

American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: Second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa Street.

Veterans for Veterans: Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Quality Resort.

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: Every other Monday at 6 p.m., St. Patrick Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte: 731-1025.

Point Man Ministries’ Breakfast for Veterans: Every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. at Buffalo Inn, 164 N. Pagosa Blvd, Contact Vincent:  (435) 618-0049 or Vfortunato777@gmail.com.

Contacts

Veterans for Veterans: 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.

This story was posted on July 18, 2013.