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Purple Heart Recipients to Receive Priority VA Claims Processing

Veterans who earned a Purple Heart during their military service will now have their veterans disability claims moved ahead of other requests.

Robert Wilkie, the recently-appointed Veterans Affairs Secretary, made the announcement in on February 26. The new policy will go into effect on April 1.

The move follows existing department rules which give priority classification to Purple Heart veterans who request medical appointments at VA hospitals. Those veterans are also exempt from all co-payments for their medical care.

But the move raised concerns among some advocates who noted that many serious wounds of war like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury aren’t often recognized with the military medal.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart estimates more than 35,000 Iraq War veterans and more than 22,000 Afghanistan War veterans have received the medal, one of the best known military honors in the country. It’s the oldest U.S. military decoration, first presented as the Badge of Military Merit by Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution.

Just how much of an impact the benefits change will have on VA case processing is unclear.

As of last week, the department’s caseload of initial benefits claims include more than 83,000 that have been pending for more than 125 days, the department’s target for rendering a decision. That figure has been largely stable for the last three years, after spiking above 600,000 in early 2013.

Source: Military Times

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