The VA claims process can be frustrating for a number of reasons. Unavailable evidence, bureaucratic hurdles and incomplete paperwork can all lead to delays in the adjudication of your claim—a process many veterans feel is already long enough. However, the VA has introduced a new claims submission option that allows the department to complete a claim within 30 days of submission.
The Decision Ready Claim (DRC) initiative allows a veteran with a service-connected disability to submit a disability compensation claim for increase, which is a claim requesting an increase to the current disability evaluation due to the worsening of the condition. To do so, the veteran needs to appoint an accredited representative, such as a DAV national service officer, and work together to file an Intent to File (VA Form 21-0966) to protect the effective date for a potential DRC. This allows the representative and veteran to obtain all necessary records; request medical exams; complete required VA forms; and submit a complete, formal, ready-to-rate claims package that will receive expedited consideration for adjudication.
An ideal claim for the DRC process at this stage requires very little development through the VA to prove an increase is appropriate. For instance, say a veteran has a 40 percent disability rating for service-connected prostate cancer that is in remission. If the cancer returns, the veteran can work with a service officer to request an increase accompanied by a Disability Benefits Questionnaire completed either by a VA physician or outside doctor.
While the initiative currently only handles claims for increase, DAV will continue to work with the VA to expand DRCs for additional types of claims in the future.
This is where you come in, because veterans must use the DRC program for it to succeed. The VA’s goal of a 30-day wait from filing to adjudication is completely reasonable, but the VA is not going to come looking for you to ask for your participation. If you’re a veteran who meets the current DRC criteria, I encourage you to contact a national service officer to assist you in the process. If not, I encourage you to spread the word among your fellow veterans about this exciting new initiative.
As always, thank you for your service to this great nation. We are forever indebted for your sacrifices, and we will continue to serve you and help you take control of your claim for the best, most timely outcome.