“How long does a VA claim take?” It is a question that I hear from veterans on a daily basis. I will do my best to answer that question, but let me first give you my best lawyer-like answer:
It depends because every VA claim is different and there are choices along the way that makes it shorter or longer. I will try to get a little more specific, but I also want to talk a little about what is more important – what you can be doing while you are in VA’s slow claims process.
Really, how long does a VA claim take?
That question does not have a simple answer because there is no clear end to a VA disability compensation claim. There is the initial claims decision. After that, there are series of appeals that can extend the time frame indefinitely.
I have seen veterans who filed a fully developed claim and received a ratings decision on their claim 90 days later. According to recent data made available by VA, the average Fully Developed Claim takes 117.9 days to complete.
But, this is usually just the first step in your VA disability compensation claim. The ratings decision often denies your claim for benefits or does not grant all the benefits you deserve. In that situation, you will need to appeal that ratings decision to get those benefits. This is where the question “how long does a VA claim take?” gets a little harder to answer.
You will have a few different options on appeal that can impact how long the entire process takes. I won’t go into all of those here since you may already be familiar with them. But, they can include whether you choose to have a Decision Review Officer (DRO) in the Regional Office review your claim, whether you have a hearing with that DRO, whether you submit more evidence after the Notice of Disagreement or after the Statement of Case, or whether you request one of the various hearing options available at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Each one of these is a “fork in the road”. Each path is a little different in terms of process and length of time. It is not unusual for a claim to be three or four years old or older by the time it makes it to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Do you want it done fast or do you want it done right?
Both, right? If you have not seen it, here is a funny clip from The Simpsons TV-show where Homer asks Marge this question.
Marge told Homer that she was “like most Americans” and wanted it done fast. I find some veterans are like Homer and his stick of dynamite. They resort not to actual explosives but to explosive language directed at the VA.
I see it all the time in VA claims files I review. Complaining about the VA or to the VA is not going to make it go any faster. Adding more paperwork to the file, whether it is a written complaint or redundant information, will only slow down the process. Some veterans don’t realize that they are contributing to the delay when they do this.
I can promise you that a better use of your time will be figuring out what evidence and what appeals path is the best one for your claim. Spend your time wisely and use the delay to gather winning evidence for your claim.
If you do that, you will make it easier for the VA to approve your claim and cut out unnecessary delay. That is the best of both worlds – a quick (ok, somewhat quick) and successful VA disability compensation claim.