Give Disabled Vets the same rights as all Disabled Workers

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All workers in the United States are protected if they sustain a workplace injury or illness. This includes civilian federal employees. This does not apply to people actively serving in the Armed Forces, because it would be logistically impossible. But it also does not apply to military Veterans.

Military Veterans are not generally deployed outside the United States, so there is no excuse to treat them differently than all other American workers (Citizens, Resident Aliens, Non-Documented Aliens).

All these other workers are allowed many rights when dealing with workplace injuries and illnesses that result in disabilities:

  • Timely treatment
    • An injured/ill worker or former employee can seek medical treatment when the symptoms are noticed, and if the injury or illness can be linked to employment, the worker or former employee is covered. 
    • A veteran seeking medical care from the Veterans Administration must first prove eligibility. This can often mean proving a service connected disability. This process can take anywhere from 90 days to multiple years.
  • Treating physician is allowed to diagnose injury/illness
    • An injured/ill worker or former employee can seek medical treatment from any licensed provider. Once the provider decides on a diagnosis, it is considered to be fact, and while it can be challenged by the employer or former employer it is assumed to be correct until disproven.
    • A injured/ill veteran can submit any diagnosis they have, to include a diagnosis from a licensed provider employed by VA healthcare on official VA healthcare records, and can be turned down for benefits unless an additional provider engaged by the VA benefits group approves of the diagnosis.
  • Assumption of innocence
    • An injured/ill worker or former employee with a diagnosis from a licensed provider for an injury or illness that could be attributed to their work or the environment of their work is assumed to have been effected by the current of former employer where the injury or illness occurred based on the workers statement.
    • A veteran seeking Veterans Administration benefits for a diagnosed disability, must prove that the injury or illness was caused or made worse by the veterans service. While the military has some records, and will share them with the veteran, there is often no annotation of incidents unless hospital level medical treatment (often not available) was sought immediately. The veteran is assumed to not have a service connected disability until they can prove it to the satisfaction of the VA benefits organization.
  • Protections against settlement delay
    • An employer or former employer of an injured or ill worker is programatically prevented in delaying case completion by a disinterested third party. Additionally, the injured/ill worker or former worker can take civil action to seek penalties for intentional delay.
    • The Veterans Administration controls the entire process of granting/awarding benefits. There is no penalty to the VA for delays in this process. Delays can result in the termination of the request, from lack of resources, petitioner passes away, etc. 

Please do not think that this problem is rampant in the entire Veterans Administration, this problem is specific to the Veterans Administration Benefits Administration (VBA) group. The VBA has an entire manual of rules for dealing with disabled veterans, and yet the system is horribly broken. Claims are delayed by years in many cases. This system cannot sustain itself. Disabled veterans are over-represented in these key areas:

  • Homelessness
    • Less than 10% of the adult US population are veterans
    • More than 12% of the Homeless population in the US are veterans.
  • Suicide
    • Veterans are 150% more likely to commit suicide than non-veterans.

Providing these veterans with the validation, healthcare, and benefits that they earned could help reduce veteran homelessness and suicide.

The VBA is horribly backlogged dealing with applications for disability benefits, and now that they will be required to reassess the men and women who served on ships during the Vietnam war and have illnesses connected with agent orange exposure, it will just get worse.

The process could be streamlined by granting the four rights that everyone else has to the veterans. 

Please sign this petition, and let others know about it.