November 12, 2013
BACKGROUND AND SCOPE:
In partnership with current and former service members, the National Council on Disability (NCD) adds its voice to call for long-term effective solutions to the disability claims backlog. This report presents NCD’s findings and recommendations that include opinions and evaluations by key stakeholders and experts engaged in the VA disability claims-processing backlog. NCD recognizes that the needs of veterans remain central to the discussion in order to ensure that the VA claims process becomes more timely, accurate, and cost-efficient. The direct contributions of stakeholders are critical to achieving positive public policy changes. Therefore, the voices and experiences of the veterans themselves are a central focus, along with the efforts of federal entities and VSOs. Of equal importance is the opportunity to facilitate reforms that can afford all veterans with service-connected disabilities and their families the dignity and quality of life they have earned—and that our nation has committed to provide.
In preparing this report, NCD reviewed relevant data from available literature, extant data in an existing VSO—Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)—database, and stakeholder interviews. The PVA database is designed to assist service members who are seeking disability benefits. The privacy of individual veterans has been protected. Among the criteria for participation as a key informant was an initial disability claim pending for more than 125 days with 6 or more claimed conditions. Information derived from the database was compared with themes coded from the interviews that NCD conducted with the veterans. NCD also interviewed key informants from the numerous government agencies that are critical to the claims process or that administer the claims process, including VA experts, DOD, VSOs, service members in the National Guard and Reserves (Reserve Component), and Congressional staff. These participants shared perspectives based on their knowledge of and experiences in national public policy, the VA disability claims process, its history, its vulnerabilities, and current efforts to resolve the backlog. NCD formulated findings and recommendations through the data analyzed and the information contributed by the diverse and expert sources available.