The Fully Developed Claim process is intended to be a fast track way to get VA disability benefits processed. From 2008-2012, the VA experienced a 50% increase in the number of claims submitted, and those incoming claims were more complex – containing 19% more medical conditions. The Fully Developed Claim (FDC) was first tested as a pilot program, to address the increasing delays in processing claims.
What is a Fully Developed Claim
As the VA works to reduce the backlog of claims, the FDC emerged as a way to get claims that are in solid order pushed through the system faster. The FDC concept refers to the fact that VA disability benefits claims are considered “fully developed” when the veteran has no more evidence to submit and the only assistance required from the VA is to secure federal records and order any medical examinations.
The applicant submits an official FDC claim form, and submits all available supporting evidence, like private treatment records and notice of Federal treatment records, to the VA at the time they first file a formal claim; the veterans also certify they have no more evidence to submit.
The VA states that it has provided priority channels for processing claims submitted in accordance with the FDC procedures. According to the VA, “The Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Program is the fastest way of getting your compensation or pension claim processed. Participation in the FDC Program allows for faster claims processing while preserving great quality of service and your right to appeal a decision.”
Using the FDC procedures can cut down on the claim processing time for an initial claim by more than half. In an August 2012 press release, the VA stated, “Currently, FDC claims take an average of 110 days to decide compared to 254 days through the traditional claims method.”
There are a couple of ways that the FDC process cuts down on processing time:
- First, the veteran files an intention to use the FDC system, which sets the effective date of the claim.
- The VA tells the veteran precisely what information and evidence is needed to process the claim. Once the vet gathers and submits all of the documentation, the VA begins to process the claim. This can eliminate delays of the back and forth of waiting for further instructions and more evidence. It lets you know up front the documents you need. Veterans and their representatives do much of the development that typically takes the VA up to half a year to gather.
- The up front submission of evidence allows the VA to start processing the claim immediately, without holding it for mandatory wait periods.
- Most Veteran’s Service Organizations have representatives who can help develop a FDC claim for free, although applicants can also seek legal advice.
- If for some reason your claim does not meet the FDC criteria, your claim will be converted to standard processing.
After the veteran submits the claim, the VA will gather all federal records identified, such as VA Medical Center records and the documents from the Social Security Administration. The VA will also send the applicant for a VA medical examination, if needed.
How does FDC compare to a regular claim submission?
The main difference is that with a standard application, the VA is the one who tracks down most of your documentation and evidence. With the FDC, the veteran gathers as much documents as possible up front.
The VA website describes the standard claim process this way:
- The VA is responsible for getting relevant records from any federal agency that you identify and authorize;
- The VA will make every reasonable effort to obtain relevant records not held by a federal agency that you identify and authorize.
These may include:
- Privately held evidence and information you tell them about (such as records from a private doctor or hospital) and/or
- Records from state or local governments or current or former employers.