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Lawsuits & Litigation

Veterans’ Disability Disaster as the VA Delays Records for Years

— April 22, 2015

Seven U.S. veterans filed suit over the veterans’ disability disaster as the VA delays records for years. This suit charges that the VA has “unreasonably delayed” delivery of the vets’ medical records, thus stalling their disability claims. The medical records are a vital part of the process, whether for initial applications or to get a disability rating change. The rating determines the degree of disability and the benefits to which the disabled are entitled.

The seven veterans in this suit, filed in D.C., have waited anywhere from 300 to over 800 days for their records, which still have not been released. The VA’s own rules require that there is an explanation if the records can’t be produced within twenty days. None has been forthcoming. The delays have cost these men thousands of dollars in lost benefits, money they need to support themselves and their families.

Army veteran George Ball, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, is still waiting for his records despite having requested them over 800 days ago. The VA has issued no explanation for the delay. Mr. Ball suffers from post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder after serving two tours in Iraq.

Rachel Clattenburg, a Public Citizen attorney representing the veterans issued a statement saying, “Forcing a combat-wounded veteran to wait hundreds of days for records to apply for disability compensation is unacceptable. This lawsuit is not just about records; it is about ensuring that our country keeps its promise to its service men and women, and their families.” Clattenburg and other attorneys involved in the suit are asking for immediate release of the men’s records and “appropriate relief” for others in the same situation.

Other suits have been filed for similar reasons. In early April, a Marine Corps veteran sued for “prompt” resolution of a disability appeals claim that was pending for over a year. The American Legion sued in March to prevent new paperwork changes regarding the filing of disability claims on the grounds that the change could rob many veterans of the benefits they deserve.

This is appalling. Sure, there are “budget cuts” and “labor shortages” in the VA, welcome to the real world. Few organizations haven’t experienced them. However, the provision of medical records is not that difficult. It’s time consuming, as they must be duplicated, but even that could be automated. Tax dollars are spent on far more frivolous concerns, such as all the time being spent on the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA).

Stop paying the legislators who came up with that ridiculous, ineffective piece of “legislation” and shunt it over to the VA to hire some temps. For that matter, I’m sure after a careful review, we could probably clear the docket of a few dozen wasteful bills and the time it takes to argue about them and put the money to better use.

I wonder what would have happened if Mr. Ball had said, “Wait. I know there’s a war and all, but I’m shorthanded and the equipment budget was cut so I don’t have the right protective armor. I’m just gonna delay this mission for a couple years until I get things worked out.”

Chances are very strong he’d have been court martialled.

My hat’s off to you, Mr. Ball, and the men and women who paid the price for me to be able to sit at my desk and type these words. You deserve better treatment than the VA is giving you and I wish you success in your suit.


Lawsuit demands VA turn over missing medical records

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