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VA taps vets groups to help fast track claims

WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs officials hosted a workshop last week to brief 10 veterans service organizations on plans to fast track certain veterans benefits claims, and how they can help in the process.

The move is part of larger efforts announced last month to separate “fully developed claims” from the rest of the growing pile of paperwork and to streamline the entire benefits process. Along with an express-lane system for claims already reviewed by VSO partners, the department is creating a team to sort complex compensation questions for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, prisoner of war status or homelessness.

VA officials note that the fully developed claims take an average of 110 days to complete, compared to 254 days for the unassisted, traditional claims method. The department has a backlog of more than 577,000 benefits claims that have been pending for more than 125 days.

The VSOs involved in the process were the American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Marine Corps League, Military Order of the Purple Heart, National Association of County Veterans Service Officers, National Organization for Veteran's Advocates, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

Those groups already assist veterans in filing for benefits. VA officials have promised closer collaboration in the future to help leverage their work into better processing for those claims.

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