The VA is attempting to eliminate its backlog through its fully-developed claim program. But, what exactly is a fully-developed claim?
The VA's New Program Creates Unnecessary Confusion
I have no idea what a fully-developed claim is, and I am pretty sure that the VA doesn't know either. Unfortunately, the VA uses some of its inhouse technical jargon to define a fully-developed claim, and the VA probably creates more confusion and problems through this program than it solves. It also probably creates unnecessary confusion, because every veteran I know that submits a claim thinks that all the evidence necessary for a decision granting benefits is already in the file.
How the "Fully Developed Claim" is Different from Other VA Claims
Basically, a fully-developed claim is one in which all of the evidence necessary to grant a claim for benefits is submitted all at once, at the beginning of the claim. This sounds to most veterans like every claim submitted to the VA, but the truth is it is not. Most of the time, the VA will review an application for benefits and not see it as fully developed. So the VA spends months and years after they receive an application for benefits requesting medical records and scheduling medical examinations. The VA usually does this one request for record at a time, dragging the process of getting the evidence into the claims file out by many months. The fully developed claim process is supposed to eliminate this.
The Fully Developed Claim Process is Not Likely to Make a Difference
In my view, the new policy will not make a difference. Even in a fully-developed claim, many VA adjudicators are still going to request unnecessary evidence, continue to send out notice letters, and request medical examinations. Only time will tell if the VA fully-developed claim process will result in some cases receiving a faster decision, but I am not hopeful See this link for more information.
What's more, the VA really doesn't explain to veterans why this program is necessary and fills up what explanation there is with technical jargon--such as requiring veterans to file an informal claim and a formal claim. Do veterans really need to know the difference between a formal and informal claim in order to benefit from this program? To me it sounds like more VA nonsense.