Report Highlights Ongoing Issues With VA Disability Claims Backlogs

May 7, 2015 in News

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of nine senators released a report noting continuing problems at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities and proposing potential solutions for VA’s Office of Inspector General to consider amid ongoing issues with backlogs of disability and pension claims, the AP/Washington Post reports.

Background

VA says that 161,000 disability and compensation claims are currently backlogged, down from a peak of 611,000 in March 2013 (Yen, AP/Washington Post, 5/6). Claims are considered backlogged if they are more than 125 days old. The Obama administration had set a goal to eliminate the backlog of VA disability claims by 2015 (iHealthBeat, 11/4/14).

Report Details

The report was released by the Senate’s VA backlog working group. It noted that VA has taken steps to fix the backlog issues but that the steps have been insufficient.

According to the report, the 10 lowest-performing VA regional offices in terms of wait times are in:

  • Baltimore;
  • Jackson, Miss.;
  • Reno, Nev.;
  • Philadelphia;
  • Los Angeles;
  • Chicago;
  • Oakland, Calif.;
  • Indianapolis;
  • Boston; and
  • St. Petersburg, Fla.

As of April, VA OIG had found evidence of data manipulation or other problems at half of the 10 offices, according to the AP/Post.

Meanwhile, the report also urged VA OIG to consider whether VA claims processors need to be held accountable to deadlines and called on VA to:

  • Enhance managerial training;
  • Keep lawmakers updated about VA’s shift to using electronic claims systems; and
  • Submit an updated assessment of VA budget and staffing needs within six months.

Sens. Introduce Legislation

To help address the issue, the senators introduced a bill that would require the Government Accountability Office to audit all 56 VA regional offices. According to the AP/Post, the legislation and report have been endorsed by groups including:

  • American Legion;
  • Disabled American Veterans;
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; and
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (AP/Washington Post, 5/6).
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