According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)(oversight.house.gov), there is a backlog of 558,000 disability claims for U.S. veterans. In response to this backlog, the AAFP is encouraging its members to help military veterans fill out applications for their disability benefits.
In a recent letter sent to members, AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., asked members to help their patients who are veterans fill out disability benefit questionnaires(benefits.va.gov) (DBQs) to speed the processing of veterans' disability compensation and pension claims. "This will help the VA determine the appropriate benefits to these national heroes and is one way we can honor their service," said Stream in the letter to AAFP members.
The VA relies on the DBQs to evaluate veterans' medical conditions and to process their disability compensation and pension claims. The department has developed more than 70 streamlined DBQs for specific conditions, such as hearing loss or arthritis, that veterans can take to private physicians to fill out. In the letter, Stream stressed that "all physicians with active medical licenses who are treating veterans can complete the DBQs."
Veterans are responsible for any related costs for getting help filling out the DBQs because the VA cannot reimburse physicians for helping patients fill out the forms.
The current backlogs and delays are due in part to a generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with more complex claims as well as a decision two years ago to expand coverage for Agent Orange-related illnesses.
Claims also increase in a sluggish economy, Stream noted.
"Completed DBQs will help speed the processing of veterans' disability compensation and pension claims," said Stream. "According to the VA, the streamlined forms use check boxes and standardized language so that the disability rating can be made accurately and quickly."