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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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VA STATUS REPORT

I often hear complaints about the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It may be a recent ex­perience or something from many years ago. The severity of the incidents is also varied. Perhaps someone had to wait on hold when contacting a VA health facility, or a Veteran is displeased with the outcome of their disability compensa­tion claim.

Regardless of the experience, there is likely a valid reason. I am not making excuses for the VA. I will shed some light on the second largest federal agency (by employees, fifth by budget). I will also encourage everyone to report their experiences, good or bad, to VA. They need to know to make appropriate corrections.

As of 2/17/2024, the average to complete a ful­ly developed disability compensation claim is 153.2 days. There are 997,538 pending claims. Of those claims, there are 377,622 considered backlogged due to pending longer than 125 days.

Fiscal Year 2023, 5,662,273 Veterans were re­ceiving compensation benefits with an estimat­ed annual total payment of $133.09 Billion. The estimated annual average individual payment is $23,505. There were 366,973 new recipients (Veterans) of compensation benefits. Let us not forget the 497,175 survivors receiving ser­vice connected death benefits.

Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is re­sponsible for compensation benefits. The average approval rate for a claim is about 70% and even higher if you are already service connected. Near­ly two million claims were processed in 2023. VBA is extremely busy and still awarding benefits on an unprecedented scale. The reward may be worth the wait.

Last year, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) brought in more than 61,000 external hires. For the first time in history, VHA reached more than 400,000 staff. VHA has more than 9 million enrolled Veterans and more than 1,300 health care facilities.

The Twin Ports VA Clinic in Superior, WI, cur­rently has an average wait time of 40 days for new patients and 15 days for established patients. If you are a Veteran with a service-connected dis­ability rating of 10% or higher, then you receive outpatient care at no cost (no copay for office vis­its). Even without a disability rating, primary care is a $15 copay. Is free health care worth the wait?

The new and improved Veterans benefits in the past seven years rivals the total benefits from the last 150 years. I would like to see more Veterans give the VA a second chance. There will always be room for improvement. You have the power to make positive changes, but you must first apply for and use the benefits.

Brad Anderson and Melissa Crandall are the Lake County Veterans Service Officers and can be reached at 218.834.8326 or cvso@co.lake.mn.us  

Karen Christianson is the Cook County Veterans Service Officer and can be reached at 218.387.3639, or karen.christianson@co.cook.mn.us

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