What is the Veterans Administration doing to expedite disability claims?
The Veteran’s Administration continues to face a backlog of disability claims. While the department had set goals to eliminate the gridlock, it has been reported that more than 70,000 disability claims remain trapped in Veterans Affairs processing centers across the country. The VA missed its goal of reducing the number of delayed claims to zero seven months ago, even though officials contend a number of claims have been left open intentionally so that veterans receive full payouts. That being said, the agency is not satisfied with the delays in what it described as a “continuous improvement process.”
The Extent of the Problem
Many benefit claims submitted to the VA, about one in five, can take longer than the promised four months to process, excluding appeals which are on an even slower track and can years to be resolved.
The numbers have not improved since last fall even though the Obama Administration and the VA announced an ambitious plan to eliminate the backlog back in 2009.
By 2013, there were still more than 610,000 backlogged cases, some of which were taking more than a year to resolve. Despite its promised to eliminate the backlog by the end of 2015, the VA has fallen short.
Although a significant number of backlogged claims have still not been processed, the VA has taken steps to remediate the problem, such as implementing new electronic records systems and making overtime mandatory for claims processors. These efforts reduced the backlog by about 90 percent over a two year time period. Most recently, the VA implemented a nationwide work queue which allows cases to be moved electronically across state lines when regional offices see sudden increases in claims filings.
The question remains as to whether the department will be able to keep the pace with the record breaking year of new cases in the current fiscal year. Not only are there more claims being filed, the cases are more complex, with an expanding list of injuries and illnesses. Part of the problem may also lie in the challenges many veterans face filing claims and navigating the vast bureaucracy. For this reason, any veteran needing help filing a claim with the VA should engage the services of an experienced disability benefits attorney.