By: Lauren Fabrizi
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is launching an initiative to decrease the number of veterans throughout the country still waiting on disability compensation.
Dr. Tommy Sowers, the assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, was at the Lincoln VA Regional Office Friday to discuss the plan.
He said filing claims on paper is not efficient enough, so he's making his way across the country to get the word out about an online alternative.
Sowers said typically, it takes six months for a representative to go through a claim filed on paper, but the hope is that it'll take only four months when veterans file them online.
"When you go to war, you want to make sure you have your equipment," Sowers said. "That's what we're encouraging veterans to do. When it's time to file a claim, make sure that they have all their equipment, their records together and file it online."
Sowers said last year about 600,000 veterans in the U.S. were still waiting on benefits. That number has gone down to 400,000.
Peggy Davis is a veteran service representative in Lincoln. She sees first hand how weeding through claims online speeds up the process.
"It typically goes much faster, we don't have to spend anytime sending a paper file to the hospital for an exam, for example," Davis said. "They can just get online and see all the medical records that would be contained in there."
Something important for veterans to note is that the backlog only deals with disability claims.
According to Sowers, there's a pool of services still available to veterans ranging from home loans and life insurance to pension and employment services.
But he said more than half of veterans living in Nebraska do not know these services are available to them.
"These are benefits that can make them stronger," Sowers said. "Stronger physically, financially, with higher education. Fundamentally to live better lives."
If you're a veteran who would like to file a disability claim, you can see your county veteran service provider, head to your regional VA office or file online here.