The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims process can be a nightmare, to say the least. At this point, the goal of the VA is to, "eliminate the VA disability claims backlog and process all claims within 125 days with 98% accuracy." Oh, and by the way, the timeline for that goal is 2015.
While I appreciate the VA's efforts, and understand that this is not entirely their fault but a result of many years of working through the beauracracy, an overwhelming onslaught of claims from decades of war, and a lack of manpower, this still leaves many veterans high and dry -- veterans who could really use the additional compensation to support their healthcare and cost of living expenses from injuries incurred from their time in service.
Fortunately, there is assistance out there. The Veterans of Foreign Wars has Service Officers available to all veterans to assist with disability claims. Disabled American Veterans also provides free assistance, with local offices found throughout the country. There are also several law firms and consultants that provide similar services through one-on-one help and group seminars. A quick search will reveal events and organizations in your area.
While it may seems strange to ask for assistance to help with your personal claims, a recent article notes that the VA is, "urging veterans with combat-related disabilities to seek the help of accredited claims preparers, rather than file benefits claims themselves directly to the VA. The VA says the practice will help cut its nationwide backlog of benefits claims." A few words of caution. Claim preparers can vary in skill and experience. Use VA accredited claims agents and organizations. Some representatives will charge for their services, and this is totally legal, so be sure to ask about this if you are not sure. I cannot speak from experience on whether paid services perform any better than the free services provided, but my suggestion is to always get as much information as possible and from as many resources as possible. If you want to spend the money, do research on the preparer, making sure that the person or organization is accredited, and get testimonials that you can verify to be true.
If you have any tips or insights on the claims process, please post in the comments section.