“When They Let You Go, They Let You Go”: The VA’s Unreasonable Delay

Written by: Hannah Eckel

I finally got to the VA for help and was diagnosed with PTSD but not enough to get a disability [rating high enough to receive monetary compensation or priority for health care].  I was shot down three times. I’ve still got anger in me.  I thought I’d be taken care of for life when I joined the service, but when they let you go, they let you go.” – Art, Marine Corps Veteran

The Department of Veterans Affairs

After leaving the service, many veterans return home and begin a new battle with one or more of the following foes: unemployment, homelessness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and physical disability.  To combat this issue, Congress empowered the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to serve as an artillery, but its weapons have become unwieldy.  Burdened by unreasonably long wait times and lost claims, many veterans toss their weapons aside and continue the fight on their own.

The VA is the second largest agency in the Federal Government.  With almost 400,000 employees and an annual budget of $338.73 billon, why is over half of the veteran population underutilizing VA benefits? The answer is simple: the process is long and overly complicated.

The Claims System

The VA claim adjudication system was designed to be non-adversarial, meaning it provides countless opportunities to submit evidence, supplement claims, and appeal denied claims.  Regardless, the bureaucratic nature of the VA has created an over-cautious claims process that, according to the United States Courts of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, may be described as “labyrinthine corridors.”  Moreover, because “[v]eterans law is at the intersection of law and medicine,” comprehension requires complex statutory and regulatory interpretation.   Even if a claimant braves the system, however, it is likely that his or her case will be handled by inadequately trained employees who must “not only advocate for veterans but also ‘be stewards of the public dime, called on to distinguish between the truly needy from the less needy from the fraudulent.’” 

A 2021 investigation found that 68% of processors were mishandling the claims process for opinions and exams.  This is likely a consequence of requiring veterans to communicate with the VA in writing, meaning that most correspondence is received by mail at one of the VA’s regional offices.  Unsurprisingly, delays occur, and as of August 2022, the VA had 623,060 pending claims.  Even when a veteran’s claim is ready for processing, however, he or she can expect a minimum wait of 125 days for the claim to be fully processed.  And if the veteran wishes to appeal a decision, he or she may wait up to two years for a final decision, depending on the type of appeal.


Veterans’ growing discontent is no surprise.  The question remains then: what can be done?  In order to create a more productive and efficient system, the VA should implement a more strenuous hiring process to not only increase the number of employees but also to produce dedicated employees who are properly equipped to handle all claims.  Additionally, the VA should simplify the procedures required to file claims and mandate electronic correspondence and filing.  Most importantly, however, veterans need advocates.  They need attorneys who are willing to push the envelope and come alongside them to traverse the winding paths in the veterans arena.  After all, “the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”

A note from the author: On this day, we remember every former Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and Guardsman who served to protect our home and the freedoms that we often take for granted. Currently, 18.2 million veterans live in the United States, which accounts for 7% of the adult population.  Mississippi is home to over 187,000 veterans, and 11,000 of those reside in Hinds County. Today and every day, we thank you and we honor you.