Late Breaking News
VA Announces Progress in Processing Disability Claims
WASHINGTON—The VA has announced that it has processed 97% of all disability claims over two years old in its inventory.
The agency said that this progress in tackling the claims backlog was a result of an initiative it launched in April to expedite disability compensation claims decisions for veterans who have a waited a year or longer.
“Over the past two months, VA has been dedicated to providing earned benefits to the veterans who have waited the longest,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in a written statement. “Thanks to our hard-working VBA employees, we have completed nearly all claims that have been pending two years or longer. We’ve made great progress, but know much works remains to be done to eliminate the backlog in 2015.”
According to VA, staff will now focus on completing disability claim cases that have been waiting over one year for a decision, while finishing processing the final batch of oldest claims.
The latest news comes after VA announced additional steps to address the claims backlog in recent months. In May, VA announced that it was mandating overtime for claims processors through the end of FY 2013 in its 56 regional benefits offices. In April, the agency announced an initiative in which VA claims raters would make final or provisional decisions on the oldest claims in the inventory, which officials said would allow veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits more quickly, if eligible.
Despite these efforts VA is under increased pressure by lawmakers to eliminate the backlog. In response to VA’s statement on progress made in addressing older disability claims, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) said that that this problem won’t be solved “unless the backlog is at zero by 2015.”
“Any progress toward eliminating the backlog is welcome news,” he said in a written statement. “But we cannot forget that the department is still far short of its own backlog performance benchmarks for 2013.”
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