VETERANS BENEFITS: Veterans Have Mixed Views on a Lump Sum Disability Payment Option
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
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For more than two centuries, veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces have been compensated for disabilities sustained while serving their country. The current program is designed to compensate veterans for average reduction in earning capacity. Compensation is based on the severity of a veterans disability and paid on a monthly basis. After an initial rating for compensation has been determined, veterans who believe their condition has worsened may file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs VA to reevaluate their disability rating and potentially increase their monthly payments. In fiscal year 1999, these repeat claims outnumbered initial disability applications by nearly three to one, dominating VA s workload. VA s claims processing performance has caused concern for a number of years because of growing backlogs of pending initial and repeat claims, which have delayed disability decisions and veterans receipt of compensation. To help reduce the volume of repeat claims, the Veterans Claims Adjudication Commission, in its 1996 report, asked Congress to consider paying less severely disabled veterans compensation in a lump sum. According to the Commission, this change could have a number of benefits for VA as well as veterans. Specifically, the lump sum option could reduce the number of claims submitted and allow VA to process claims more quickly especially those of more seriously disabled veterans. Moreover, a lump sum option could be more useful to some veterans as they make the transition from military to civilian life.
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