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Monday, August 13, 2007

Study: Wounded Vets Navigating VA Claims Process Alone Receive 1/3 Fewer Benefits

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

A recent study by the Institute for Defense Analysis shows that wounded veterans who approach the V.A. without professional assistance receive on average about one-third of the compensation that those who are represented by a lawyer or service organization like the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) get.

"That's not surprising at all," said Eric McGinnis, the DAV representative who helped Messick get appropriate compensation for his injuries after the V.A. initially rated his long-term disabilities at 0 percent. "If you know the proper vernacular, a few simple phrases, it makes things a lot easier. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a vet who knows exactly the right things to say and do."

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Complicating matters further, McGinnis said, is a compensation process that requires veterans to approach the V.A., openly advertising their own physical and psychological wounds in order to receive benefits. "These aren't always people who are comfortable advocating for themselves," McGinnis said. ...

State Department of Veterans Affairs Director Terry Schow...said it would be nice if the system weren't so adversarial and complex that veterans needed help from outside groups to obtain just compensation for their wounds. "But it is the way it is," he said. "The process is so involved and complicated, that I think it's just wise to do that. And so we encourage everyone to get assistance from a service organization."

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