Texas Veterans join California Veterans facing unprecedented delays
Media coverage of VBA’s disability claim delay and error crisis shows the situation deteriorating further for America’s Veterans. Several news reports first focused on California, where the Oakland office temporarily ceased processing new claims for a month-long staff retraining in June.
Now the spotlight shines on Texas. On Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman reports the number of pending claims in Texas doubled in the past two years.
VA’s July 16 Monday Morning Workload Report reveals staggering and chronic delays. At Waco, 78 percent of Veterans’ disability claims languish more than 125 days. In Houston, it is 74 percent.
Chronic delays combined with rampant mistakes create a double whammy for Veterans seeking VA benefits and healthcare. VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluded VBA’s Waco RO made mistakes in 36 percent of the claims audited. In Houston, it was 57 percent. Houston retains the dubious distinction as VBA’s second worst office in terms of quality.
After Jeremy Schwartz at the Statesman reported VBA’s crisis on Tuesday, Texas state lawmakers promptly announced a “State Strike Force Team” of Texas state employees to assist the beleaguered Federal VBA. Kudos to Schwartz for his diligent reporting of a complicated situation impacting so many Veterans.
VBA says the agency will process all claims within 125 days by 2015. Despite assertions by VBA officials of improvement in quality and timeliness, VBA’s claim delay crisis spirals downward, harming hundreds of thousands of Veterans by delaying and denying disability benefits and the free VA healthcare Veterans often receive after their claim is finally approved. Nationwide, VBA takes an average of 250 days to process a new claim, according to VBA’s “Aspire” web site. At Waco, VBA takes 379 days. In Houston, 274 days.
California and Texas both appear to be grinding to a near halt deciding Veterans’ claims. As of July 16, 90 percent of claims in Oakland take longer than 125 days to decide. In Los Angeles, it is more than 87 percent. In San Diego, 66 percent.
In Oakland, Veterans wait an average of 324 days for a VBA claim decision. In L.A., 348 days. In San Diego, 284 days.