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Vets Refuse To Wait Any Longer, Sue The VA For Medical Records

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to flat-out ignore requests for medical records.

On Monday, seven veterans decided to put an end to the wait and filed suit against the VA for unreasonable delay in accessing their medical records. Their requests, initiated over 300 days ago, are still pending. One of the veterans has been waiting 800 days, Military.com reports.

VA rules state that veterans should receive an explanation for the delay after 20 days. With the help of Public Citizen and the National Veterans Legal Services Program, these veterans hope to force the VA to immediately release their records.

Out of the seven veterans in the suit, five are looking for their records to qualify them for the Combat-Related Special Compensation program. Under the program, the VA provides monthly payments to veterans who’ve suffered injuries in combat. The compensation is tax-free.

The other two veterans, who have each been waiting 621 and 686 days, can’t even apply to the Physical Disability Board of Review without records in hand. Veterans are often given the short end of the stick through incredibly low disability ratings, and so those applying to the board have a 25 percent success rate in obtaining an adjustment.

The board was originally created following congressional hearings which established that more than 70,000 veterans from 2001 to 2009 had been given lower ratings than they deserved.

“Disability benefits are critical for veterans suffering from injuries sustained in service to their country,” said Public Citizen attorney Rachel Clattenburg in a statement. “Forcing a combat-wounded veteran to wait hundreds of days for records to apply for disability compensation is unacceptable. This lawsuit is not just about records; it is about ensuring that our country keeps its promise to its service men and women, and their families.”

The reason the records remain crucial to payouts is because they contain information about disability ratings, when the veteran left military service, medical records, and VA decisions regarding the status of benefits.

Although the VA still faces a crushing backlog of disability, Secretary Robert McDonald hopes the department can fully catchup by the end of 2015.

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