Vets need to be part of solution

Criticism has been heaped upon the Department of Veterans Affairs for a disability claims backlog causing about 400,000 veterans to wait more than four months for a decision on their application.

However, the VA doesn’t deserve to be saddled with all of the blame for this unsettling situation. Those seeking disability benefits deserve some of it, too.

If veterans seeking approval of their claims choose not to help expedite the application process to the best of their ability, it’s understandable that they might have to wait longer for a decision on their claims.

Those veterans who rely on the flawed notion that, just because they served their country the VA should be expected to do an inordinate amount of data-compilation work on their behalf not only bog down the application process in general but their individual cases as well.

If an application for disability benefits is approved, applicants are eligible for a lump-sum payment from the time the application was submitted to the start of monthly benefits.

Vets seeking such benefits fear some of that lump-sum money might be lost if a new proposal by the Obama administration aimed at greatly easing or ending the backlog problem is implemented.

That proposal simply would require use of a standard form in the application for benefits rather than any number of other means vets have used to initially apply.

Because of the lack of uniformity that currently exists in submitting information, the VA too often spends countless hours that should not be necessary, working to acquire documentation needed for making a benefits ruling.

About the fear of lost benefits: Opponents of this Obama plan don’t know for sure that benefits would be lost, since the proposal is in its infancy. But they’ve chosen to attack it rather than try to make the reasonable idea work to everyone’s benefit.

Veterans should ask themselves whether it is fair for them to needlessly burden the system – and add to the cost of government – if they are capable of helping themselves by helping the VA streamline the application process.

That in no way would be an affront to those who have risked their lives on this country’s behalf.

The administration might need to adjust some parts of what it is proposing, prior to requiring that the standard application form be used – especially to resolve the concerns that have surfaced about loss of lump-sum money. Beyond that, it isn’t unfair to expect veterans applying for benefits to use a standard form, when standard forms are a part of people’s lives every day.

The criticism that has evolved is premature. Rather than lobbing criticism at the government, vets and groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars should commit themselves to working cooperatively with the administration to eliminate the concerns and effect a better application process.

During their military service, veterans valiantly overcame much worse obstacles than what this Obama proposal presents.

They should reignite the dedication and skills they demonstrated while on active duty to make the disability application process work for them in the most efficient way.