Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bipartisan Push to End Veteran Claim Backlog

The backlog of Veteran Affairs disability claims has risen by more than 2,000 percent during the past four years, while the agency's budget has been increased by only 40 percent.
Now Congress is pushing for President Obama to "take direct action" to end the backlog. A bipartisan letter helmed by Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla. and Mike Coffman, R-Colo. and cosigned by 164 House Republicans and Democrats, is urging the white House to run interference in order to help the more than 600,000 vets currently waiting for their overdue disability claims. The average time they wait to have a first-time filing processed is between 317 and 327 days, the letter states. Many vets are waiting as long as two years for their claim to be processed, and there are vets who waited as many as 1,000 days.
This letter is not the first of its kind – a similar one was sent a month ago by 67 senators which also requested that President Obama take action by becoming involved in solving the disability claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some cities are running a lag time longer than others; the average wait for a disabled vet in New York is 642 days, while the average wait for a vet in Philadelphia is 510 days. While Congress has approved more funding and more employees for the Department of Veteran Affairs, the backlog situation has not improved. A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs has stated that the agency has processed more than 4 million claims in the past four years – a record number – while admitting that more needs to be done.
The VA's goal is to process the backlog of claims by the end of 2015 as the system completes a switch from paper-based processing to a new electronic system. A backlogged claim is any claim 125 days or older. The electronic system has been rolled out in 20 offices throughout the United States, and should be in all of the 56 offices by the end of 2013.
In response, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the President is "deadly serious" about clearing the extensive backlog by 2015. But while the backlog issue predates Obama's administration, advocates are pushing for him to become more hands-on in order to get the system resolved. According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), more than 575,000 vets have been waiting for their claim to be processed for more than 125 days.

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