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Good News: VA’s Initial Claim Backlog Drops

Bad News: Errors, Appeals, and Dependency Claims Increase.  

On January 3, 2014, Bergmann & Moore reported that the disability claim inventory was less than 1.4 million at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Three months later, VA’s inventory fell nearly six percent to just under 1.3 million claims pending (see chart at end of blog).  That’s good news.

Here’s more: With fanfare worthy of a tickertape parade, VA announced a sharp drop of 44% for the agency’s infamous initial claim backlog over the past year.

Yes, these are significant improvements for our Veterans, families, and VA: there are only 581,527 Veterans waiting on initial claim decisions from VA.  Of those initial claims, 333,147 (57%) continue languishing for longer than four months, and these are what VA narrowly defines as the “backlog.”

Serious, Sharp Rise in Errors, Appeals, and Dependency Claims

There is more to the story about VA’s claim inventory, however.  VA’s press efforts attempt to convince the American public that VA’s backlog of initial claims is going down, and that Veterans should applaud VA.

Just one thing, though: VA’s press release is misleading because it is incomplete.  Here’s the rest of the story.

Two distressing facts not discussed by VA or reported by the press are VA’s errors and growing VA’s appeal backlog.

VA’s rush to process initial claims resulted in a 55 percent error rate and caused a ballooning claim appeal backlog of 273,311 Veterans’ claims.  And VA takes an unconscionable four additional years to process an appealed claim.

VA still must address staff shortages, mandatory overtime, a lack of training, and how VA will end all backlogs for all types of claims.

VA’s 1.3 Million Disability Benefit Claim Inventory

The chart below describes the change in VA’s total disability claim inventory, starting from the end of December 2013, to the end of March 2014.

Change in VA Disability Claim Inventory, Dec. 2013 to Mar. 2014

Date

Initial Claims

Appealed Claims

Award Adjustment Claims

Accrued Claims

VA Inventory of Claims

Dec. 30, 2013

685,931

266,040

405,972

15,263

1,373,206

Mar. 31, 2014

581,587

273,311

425,491

12,141

1,292,530

Change

-104,344

+7,271

+19,519

-3,122

-80,676

Percent

-15.2%

+2.7%

+4.8%

-20.5%

-5.9%

 

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