Limboland – Day 470: Decision

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Dear Mr. Capps,

We made a decision on your claim for service connected compensation received on July 22, 2010. 

The letter came in today’s mail. Day 470; for me, Decision Day. Things have moved really quickly in the past week. On October 20th, I posted a note here that I had been waiting 15 months—463 days—for a decision on my claim for disability compensation from the VA. Just the next day I received a call from the Baltimore VA Regional Office.

The caller said he was responding to my inquiry about the claim I had submitted on July 21, 2010. He went on to tell me the VA had put together all of my files and sent them to the determination (my word, I can’t remember the precise phrase he used) team to make a final decision on my claim. He explained how long the process should take from that point on: about 60 days for the adjudication and then about five days to process the payment. He was really a nice guy. He was patient and repeated the details my brain struggled to assimilate.

A couple days later, I received another call from Baltimore. The caller told me that she, too, was responding to my inquiry about my claim, and that the determination team (again, my language, not theirs) had done their work. They had made a decision and I would soon receive a compensation check, including a lump sum payment for the 15 months I’ve been waiting. For the record, she, too, was very nice. She even suggested I take a vacation with the money.

Wow. I am still processing this. A week ago I was frustrated and angry at the system for taking 15 months to process my claim. Now, the decision is made and I should receive the benefits beginning next week. The benefits include a small pension, a 10 point veterans preference applying for government jobs, counseling, vocational rehabilitation training, and more.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this in time—I was never very good at the snappy comeback. But for now I’ll say two things, OK three.

First, thanks to the VA for recognizing that I’m still struggling, and for providing me with support. And thanks to the Congress for authorizing these benefits.

Second, I don’t remember filing a formal inquiry about my claim. Maybe I did, but I don’t remember it. So I’m left to wonder if someone inside the system was reacting to these posts or to my other public commentary on the amount of time veterans are waiting to get their benefits. I know that the front office of the VA is aware of these posts because at least one of them has appeared in the Secretary’s morning press briefing.

Which brings me to this: mine was one of over 750,000 claims backlogged in the system. To the other veterans waiting in line: if my writing on this blog got my case moved ahead of yours, I apologize. I promise to keep my eye on this issue and to continue writing about the system. To the VA: I’ll keep writing about all the good stuff you do, too.

So I’m out of Limboland. What next? I don’t really know. I’ll keep looking for a job. Maybe I’ll look into vocational rehabilitation training. I’ll certainly pay down some debt. But no vacation, yet.