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Can the VA reduce backlog of disability claims?

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is promising to clean up a backlog of 630,000 existing disability claims by 2015, but members of Congress are expressing considerable skepticism.  According to an article published by Federal News Radio, there’s a lot of controversy as to how the VA is going to reduce the backlog when, in the past year, it has grown by 30,000 and many Veterans are waiting 273 days for their claims to be processed.  Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calf.) says that since 1997 the VA has slowed it’s processing time, from 136 claims per employee per year to 73 claims per employee per year.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it’s determined to eliminate its backlog of disability claims by 2015. But at the moment, the problem is getting worse, not better, and congressional overseers say their patience is growing thin.  VA defines the backlog as being made up of any claim that’s been pending for 125 days or longer, and the department’s statistics show that as of this week, there are nearly 630,000 claims in that category.

VA said the number will be down to zero by 2015, but for now, the numbers are headed in the wrong direction: the current backlog includes 30,000 more cases than it did a year ago. (read more)

The VA is claiming even though the number of claims processed per year has gone down, the quality of the processing has increased significantly, reducing the need for review of old claims.  Its representative also said that with electronic processing; better information sharing between the VA, Social Security Administration and the IRS; plus access to the complete medical records of service personnel provided by the Pentagon, it will be able to meet the target.