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Processing VA Claims Backlog

The Department of Veterans Affairs has hired 2,000 claims processors to deal with the claims backlog. They’re going to be busy, once they’re trained.

As of early October, the VA was sitting on over 200,000 backlogged claims, meaning that of the 600,000 claims in hand, one-third were over 125 days old. In addition, they have now found more than 70,000 claims that must be re-viewed after three new presumptives were added for Agent Orange exposure, bringing the total to 270,000 backlogged claims.

The three new presumptives—Park- insonism, bladder cancer, and hypothyroidism—have been added to more than a dozen existing ones. Those three conditions had never been approved as presumptives, but now that they are, we have the Nehmer lawsuit of 1986 to thank for the need to review those claims. Nehmer concluded that if you ever filed and were turned down for illnesses that later made the accepted list of presumptives, the

VA is automatically required to go back and review your claim. The bonus here is that any disability pay you receive now will be retroactive to the date of your original claim.

You don’t have to refile, but as a precaution, check in with the VA and make sure it didn’t lose your original claim. Be certain you’re among those whose claim is being looked at.

In addition, there are three new presumptives for airborne particulate exposure—asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis— for those who served in the Gulf during a certain period of time. If you’ve already put in a claim, it will be reviewed.

If you want to keep an eye on how the new claims processors are doing, check for weekly reports. Note the accuracy-level reports. Those are worrying. Again, don’t assume the new processors are reviewing your old claim. Call and find out.

Write to Freddy Groves in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to