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McHugh & Macri
Certified Elder Law Attorneys Serving New Jersey Residents since 1978.
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Many veterans pass away before they receive benefit approval

NAELA National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. MEMBER

Over the last several years, it has become very apparent that the benefit administrators for the Department of Veterans Affairs are swamped. As the number of pending benefit claims approaches 1 million, the time that veterans and their spouses are waiting on appeals is growing tremendously. This was the case for one New Jersey woman who actually passed away before the VA handled the claim filed on behalf of her husband.

On average it takes 1,040 days -- just under three years -- to process VA benefit appeals. For many veterans with severe medical conditions, they simply cannot wait this long. In fact, an investigation determined that 2,936 apealed cases were dropped because the veteran or their surviving spouse passed away.

In 1961, a New Jersey woman's husband committed suicide as the result of post-traumatic stress disorder developed during a plane crash in World War II. As many veterans returned from the Middle East with similar issues over the last decade, the woman decided she would fight for her husband by filing a claim with the VA. The veteran's widow spent seven years in the appeal process, which ultimately came to a close with her death in 2012.

Unfortunately, this woman's experience isn't unique. Navigating claims and appeals for veterans benefits can be difficult. In addition to benefits for combat-related injuries and mental conditions, veterans and surviving spouses can seek coverage for long-term care in assisted living facilities.

No matter the reason someone is filing for or appealing veterans benefits, the process can be complicated by denials, delays or a simple lack of knowledge about available options. This is why it may be valuable to consult with an attorney who can help veterans or their surviving spouses determine what benefits are available to them, which may be especially helpful as they approach older age.

Source: Trib Live, "Veterans or families seeking benefits from VA are dying for a decision, Trib finds," Carl Prine, May 11, 2013

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