September 16, 2019
The attack on union dues is real.
Benefits delayed are benefits denied.
If you are a veteran who has a service-connected disability, you need to pay attention to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new rules governing disability claims processing. These new rules have been implemented since March, and they have already delayed benefits for many veterans and could potentially reduce their benefits even further. That’s because the new rules are preventing the claims processors from quickly and accurately processing their disability claims.
The new rules are also unfairly targeting the claims processors themselves. AFGE members in West Virginia recently held an informational picket to raise awareness on the issue. They received support from local veterans groups in the area, including a veterans' motorcycle club.
When the VSR can’t finish the claim for whatever reasons – may it be additional information from veterans is needed or simply a lack of time to finish an exam request, the claim gets sent back into the system, or “the cloud” – a national queue – and waits there for at least 30 days before another VSR can take a look at it.
With the new time limit, the VSRs simply don’t have enough time to do what needs to be done, and every time the VSR sends the claim back into the system, it delays the entire process. The VSR who picks up the half-done claim will also have to review everything from the bottom up as VSRs now process claims filed anywhere in the country, not just in their area like before. This delays things further as the VSRs have to spend more time doing research on both VA and contract hospitals before they can order an exam.
Before the new standards were adopted, generally only 5 people were involved in processing and approving a claim if they had everything they needed. Now, 15-20 people could be involved in processing just one claim.
The new rule was supposedly intended to cut down the claims backlog, but it has produced the opposite effect. At the West Virginia office, the claims backlog has increased dramatically.
AFGE Local 2344 members at the West Virginia office held an informational picket earlier this month to raise an awareness on the issue.
"I hope by us going out and raising awareness of this to the public, it will bring attention to the issue and resolve this matter because it doesn't only affect the people that handle the claims, it will impact the lives of the veterans and their families," said AFGE Local 2344 President Patty Nash. "If that happens, we will not be honoring the words of President Lincoln when he promised to take care of the veterans of the United States: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
The employees also received support from veterans organizations in the area. On the picketing day, more than 100 riders who are members of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and others drove by the office to show their support to the cheers of the employees.
The attack on union dues is real.
A tweet from President Trump set in motion a chain of events that led to some employees at the NOAA being threatened because they wouldn’t alter their forecasts to fit the political winds.
AFGE and other unions representing employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs completed the final step in our lawsuits against the VA for removing hundreds of employees from official time.