The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that its disability claims backlog is at the lowest level since it began tracking the data in 2007, due in part to replacing antiquated information systems.
According to Allison Hickey, VA undersecretary for benefits, the current backlog of more than 98,000 claims older than 125 days represents an 84 percent decrease from a peak of more than 600,000 claims reported in March 2013. Hickey credited the dramatic drop to more employees processing claims through mandatory overtime and using digital records rather than paper ones.
“We streamlined our processes; we moved out of antiquated systems; we got away from thousands of tons of paper; we met you online so that you could access us wherever and whenever you needed; and many of you changed right along with us,” Hickey wrote in a blog this week.
With the increase in veterans filing their claims electronically, the processing time has been reduced significantly while improving the accuracy of the VA’s review and decision making process, Hickey said. Further, the accuracy rate in reaching decisions on disability requests has improved from about 83 percent in 2011 to 91 percent currently. And, on the eight separate quality categories measured within a claim, VA employees are making the correct decision more than 98 percent of the time.
Nonetheless, according to an internal VA document obtained last month by The Huffington Post, more than 238,000 veterans in the VA’s backlog have died while waiting for treatment. In response to the revelation, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said the troubling news highlights ongoing VA mismanagement and calls into question the department’s ability to care for American veterans.
“No veteran should ever fall through the cracks when attempting to receive the care they have earned,” Miller said.
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