Oct 23, VCS in the News: Reserve Officers Association Wants Answers on Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran Claim Disparities

Army Times

ROA wants answers on denied reserve claims

October 23, 2008
The head of the Reserve Officers Association said he hopes a study ordered by Congress will explain the big discrepancies in veterans’ disability benefits awarded to active and reserve forces.

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy, ROA’s executive director, said Wednesday that there may be good reasons why National Guard and reserve members are more likely to have their veterans’ claims denied and to receive lower disability ratings — but those reasons are not immediately clear, and the Department of Veterans Affairs does not have a good explanation.

“We really need to keep on them until this study is done,” McCarthy said, noting that veterans must have confidence that the disability system is fair.

Retired Rear Adm. Patrick Dunne, VA’s undersecretary for benefits, met with McCarthy to discuss the discrepancies in disability compensation, which were first reported earlier this month by Military Times.

The report, based on information obtained by Veterans for Common Sense, showed that 45 percent of active-duty veterans of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq had filed disability claims, compared with 23 percent of Guard and reserve members who deployed to the war zones.

Just 4 percent of claims by active-duty veterans were denied by VA, while 11 percent of claims from Guard and reserve members were denied.

Dunne did not dispute the report, McCarthy said, and said VA is trying to determine why there is such a big difference. Dunne suggested that one possible explanation might be that active-duty veterans accumulate more service-connected disabilities over a career than Guard and reserve members.

McCarthy said Dunne tried to assure ROA that there is no outright discrimination against Guard or reserve members.

“That they are going to do a study is a good sign,” McCarthy said. “This is a difficult time for VA and they have a lot of big issues facing them.”

The demographic study of disability claims promised by Dunne was ordered by Congress, and VA is looking for a private company to study the differences between active and reserve veterans by age, locations where claims are filed and where veterans live to determine why there are differences and whether some people are being treated unfairly.

The study will take more than a year to complete.

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