American Legion: Veterans should get interest on delayed disability payments

Jeff Severns Guntzel
Senior reporter
Public Insight Network

The American Legion's national commander, James Koutz, addressed a joint meeting of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs committee. [Watch the meeting: http://cs.pn/OD9T4w] (Screen shot of c-span.org)

The American Legion’s national commander, James Koutz, addressed a joint meeting of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs committee. Watch the meeting on C-SPAN. (Screen shot of c-span.org)

At Department of Veterans Affairs offices across the country, more than 800,000 disability claims are waiting for action. More than half of those claims have been pending for more than four months. When the VA approves a claim, payment is typically backdated to the start of the claims process. But the new commander of the American Legion says that’s not enough – and that veterans who waited that long for a decision should be entitled to interest, as well.

James Koutz, himself a Vietnam veteran, addressed a routine joint meeting of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees last week. The Army Times reports:

“Disabled veterans waiting longer than 125 days for their initial disability claims to be processed should receive interest on top of their retroactive benefits, says the new commander … [Koutz] said payments with interest would be a small recognition by the government that veterans had been forced to wait too long for pay they deserved.

“… The issue of delayed claims is not new, but Koutz said it seems to be one without a solution. The Veterans Affairs Department has been hiring more people to process claims and changing how claims are handled in an effort to shorten processing times and start payments faster, yet the backlog of claims continues to grow.”

For more, read our story on delays in the veterans’ benefits claims process, inspired by the work of the Center for Investigative Reporting, which produced a map showing claims processing statistics nationwide. I’ve written up a guide for reporters interested in localizing the coverage.

>> Help us cover this story: What’s your experience with veteran disability claims?