Sunday’s The New York Times reports VA’s claim backlog soared higher in the past two years. The growing problem has caught the attention of major news outlets and Congress.
At VA’s Oakland, California Regional Office, the most daunting issue facing Veterans applying for VA disability benefits remains the glacial pace for processing claims, according to investigative journalist Aaron Glantz.
How bad is it? In Oakland, which handles Veterans’ claims for Northern California, Veterans wait an average of ten months for an initial VA decision.
According to VA, more than 1.1 million Veterans’ claims are mired in VA’s overwhelmed paper-driven bureaucracy. Nationwide, two out of three Veterans wait more than four months for an initial VA claim decision.
At some regional offices, notably the offices in Seattle and Oakland, more than 80 percent of disability claims are languishing for longer than 125 days. VA delays represent huge challenges for our Veterans who urgently need VA disability compensation and VA healthcare.
In response to the growing need to address this serious problem, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing on VA’s claim backlog for Wednesday, April 18.
Paul Sullivan, managing director of public affairs and Veterans outreach at Bergmann & Moore, will offer constructive proposals aimed at improving VA’s beleaguered claims process. Sullivan will represent the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA).
Other subject matter experts from the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and The American Legion are set to speak.
While VA has taken steps, such as updating the agency’s computer system and hiring more staff, to address the continually growing backlog, Veterans still wait an average 7 months just to receive an initial decision on a claim. VA’s high claim error rate also plagues VA, resulting in a flood of appeals by Veterans who feel wrongly denied.
During testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier this year, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki explained that VA has seen a 48 percent increase in claims filed since 2008. He expects the claim volume to increase by another 4 percent in 2013 to 1.25 million claims.
VA has an admirable goal of almost completely reducing the number of claims pending for longer than 125 days by 2015. However, with one million service members expected to leave the military in the next five years, VA remains hard pressed to achieve the goal.