The VA estimates that it takes an average of 175 days to gather evidence for a standard VA disability benefits claim.
In contrast, the FDC form outlines the evidence that you need to submit. Usually, this is private treatment records. The veteran also notifies the VA precisely where other federal records exists, such as those with VA Medical Centers or the Social Security Administration. Depending on the type of military service, a veteran may need to also assist in locating your service records.
What are the pros and cons of using the FDC process?
The main advantage of the FDC system is a speedy resolution. Data shows the FDC process can cut the time to a decision by half – which on average, means a decision coming in less than four months, instead of the standard eight-month time.
Some of the pilot programs were showing 90-day decision windows, outside of any delays caused by waiting for more records outside the VA’s control. The pilot program in Chicago showed great results. Chicago reported that, “By 2010, 25 percent of FDC claims were rated in 69 days, and half were decided in 115 days. These are good results.”
VA regional officers say the FDC involves veterans more in the process, and gives them more control over their claim. Using the FDC process is not intended to affect the quality of care or level of benefits received. It is simply a method to speed up claim review.
Early evidence suggests use of a FDC may also reduce the appeals rate. The FDC also provides an option to request a reconsideration after a decision, and a chance to submit more evidence before needing to go to the appeal stage.
There doesn’t appear to be active negatives reported. If anything bumps a veteran out of the FDC process, the claim may just be put back in the standard processing pool. This could happen if, for example, a claim ends up requiring the VA’s assistance for more than just ordering federal records or medical exams; or if it’s determined more documents are needed. A veteran can also drop out of the FDC process at any time and have the claim move through the standard processing procedures.
The Fully Developed Claim process currently applies only to the initial application for VA disability benefits, or secondary and increased disability service connection claims. The VA is testing an expedited appeals process.