Saturday, March 17, 2007

Perspective: Harvard professor offers a solution to disability claim crisis

Linda Bilmes of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

With the veterans’ disability claims system sagging under the weight of a growing backlog, partly caused by new claims from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, a Harvard University professor recommends a radical overhaul that would automatically pay disability compensation to any war veteran who applies.

Linda Bilmes of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who has been studying veterans’ medical care and disability benefits, said the current backlog of about 600,000 claims has overwhelmed a system that already was too slow and that things are only going to get worse. She predicts 250,000 to 400,000 claims will be filed over the next two years by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, creating a situation that she said “will rapidly turn the disability claims problem into a crisis.”

Her solution, which she discussed at a Tuesday congressional hearing, is that the VA “should accept and pay all disability claims” filed by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, accepting at “face value” a veteran’s statement that he or she has a service-connected disability. Since 88 percent of disability claims are approved anyway, Bilmes said that some spot-checking and audits would be enough to ensure the system is fair.

Read the rest at the Navy Times