The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs Appeals & Review (A&R) Division celebrated a successful 2021 calendar year, generating earnings of more than $17 million in retroactive benefits payments for Alabama Veterans and their surviving family members.
Though the measure of success is not solely the dollar amount of retroactive benefits paid, A&R Manager Mark Sullivan challenges his team to collectively generate an average of $1 million per month. Last year, it averaged $1.4 million per month, with more than $2 million in retroactive benefits payments being earned in June, September, and October.
“A famous quote attributed to General Omar N. Bradley, when he headed the Veterans Administration in 1946, states ‘We are dealing with Veterans, not procedures; with their problems not ours.’ That sums up the work that is done within A&R,” Sullivan said.
To recover the retroactive benefits paid, A&R works with Veterans and surviving family members to review compensation decisions from the VA. If the decision has inaccuracies or it is determined additional compensation is available, A&R continues working with the claimant in preparation for an appeal with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). Due to the complexity of VA’s claim and appeals systems, the amounts of money that are recovered may be based on work that was done in years prior to 2021. Unfortunately, some claimants wait years for VA to make a final decision in their case.
Last year included several changes for the A&R team and the standard practices for its daily work. A&R, like the rest of the country, faced unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic but was able to successfully remove potential barriers to needed services by developing a virtual means for allowing Veterans and their survivors to remotely attend BVA hearings. The first virtual hearing was held in May 2021 and the first two remote hearings were held in August.
You can learn more about the A&R Division by visiting your local Veterans Service Office.