The American Legion, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) have announced a new collaborative effort to help reduce the compensation claims backlog for veterans. The effort – the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Community of Practice – is a key part of VA's overall transformation plan  to end the backlog in 2015 and process claims within 125 days at 98-percent accuracy. VA can process FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim.
"We have been working with VA since last December on its fully developed claims process," American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said. "Teams of our experts have already gone to VA regional offices in Denver, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and other cities to help identify best practices for FDCs, and to further train our own service officers."
Koutz said the Legion's next visit in support of the FDC program is planned for June at the VA regional office in Reno, Nev.
"This new initiative takes a common-sense approach to working smarter to better serve our injured and ill Veterans," DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski said. "DAV is pleased to be working with the VA to help improve the disability compensation system."
Claims are considered to be "fully developed" when veterans submit all available supporting evidence, like private treatment records and notice of federal treatment records, to VA at the time they first file a formal claim and certify they have no more evidence to submit. This is the information that VA needs to make a determination on a disability claim.
The FDC program supports the sharing of best practices across veterans service organizations, who help thousands of veterans each year with their compensation claims, to identify up front all evidence necessary to support a veteran's claim. Veterans then certify that they have no additional evidence to submit, and VA can process the claim in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim.
VSOs have long played an integral role in submitting veterans claims – often with representatives working within VA regional offices. VA has consulted with them throughout the development and implementation of VA's plan to end the backlog in 2015 to ensure best practices and their unique insights were incorporated. The American Legion and DAV are the first to step forward to work with VA on the FDC program, and that program has led to a much more efficient process.
Meaningful progress will be felt by increasing numbers of veterans as more VSOs participate with VA in the FDC program. This initiative is just the latest example of the collaboration between VA and VSOs. In July, VA held a workshop to obtain the views of VSO representatives and to provide them with information on the effort to eliminate the claims backlog. The main focus of the workshop was VA's emphasis on the shared goal of better serving veterans and positive impact of filing Fully Developed Claims. These workshops will be replicated in VBA regional offices across the country.
Servicemembers returning from active duty in combat theatres are eligible for five years of VA medical care – regardless of the status of any disability claim submitted. Medical care is not withheld while disability claims are under review. For more information on enrolling in VA health benefits, click here .