Thursday, November 07, 2013

Backlog of Disability Claims Reduced by 34 Percent since March

93 Percent of Claims Over One Year Old Completed

WASHINGTON (Nov. 7, 2013) –The Department of Veterans Affairs has made
significant progress in reducing the backlog of disability
compensation claims – from 611,000 to 400,835 or 34 percent -- since
peaking in March. Concurrently, VA improved the accuracy of
disability ratings, and provided hundreds of thousands of claims
decisions to Veterans who have waited the longest. "Veterans
shouldn't have to wait for the benefits they've earned," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "This has never been
acceptable, but we are executing our plans and moving in the right
direction to meet our 2015 goal of eliminating the backlog. We still
have more work to do, but we are making clear progress and no one is
more committed than our VBA employees, more than half of whom are
Veterans themselves." Since the VA launched the initiativeto
eliminate the oldest claims first, claims processors at the 56
regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) have
been focused on claims that had been waiting longer than one year. As
of Nov. 4, VBA has completed 93 percent of these older claims,
resulting in over 476,000 decisions for Veterans since the initiative
began on April 19. The proportion of claims decisions that resulted
in benefits being granted remained on par with historical
averages—between 65 and 70 percent. At the same time, the accuracy of
rating decisions has improved. The three-month average for decision
accuracy when evaluating a complete claim file is 90 percent -- a 5
percentage point improvement since 2011, and a 7 percentage point
improvement since 2010. The three-month average accuracy for rating
individual medical conditions inside each claim has climbed three
points to 96.7 percent since December 2012. VBA also directed 20
hours of mandatory overtime per month for claims processors, and
worked with the Veterans Health Administration to place VA physicians
in regional offices to review medical evidence to help speed
decisions. Mandatory overtime was halted during the government
shutdown in October, but has been re-established and will continue
through Nov. 23. VBA anticipates mandatory overtime to continue in
2014, based on available funding. Optional overtime for claims
processors will remain in effect. "I am grateful to our employees,
many who have been working long periods of overtime since May, for
their great dedication in helping our Veterans get the benefits
they've earned," said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.
"I talk to them every day and they are committed to building on their
record-breaking progress, helping transform the VA into a paperless
system, and ending the backlog for good." In the coming months, VBA
will continue its effort on further reducing the backlog, focusing on
those claims that have been pending the longest. VBA will also
continue to prioritize disability claims for homeless Veterans, those
experiencing extreme financial hardship, the terminally ill, former
Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully
Developed Claims (FDC). Filing an electronic FDC is the quickest way
for Veterans to receive a decision on their compensation claim
(http://www.benefits.va.gov/fdc/). Regardless of the status of their
compensation claims, Veterans who have served in combat since Nov. 11,
1998, are eligible for five years of free medical care from VA for
most conditions. Veterans can learn more about disability and other
Veterans benefits on the joint Department of Defense/VA web portal
eBenefits at www.ebenefits.va.gov.
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Sean Eagan

Life Member VFW NY Post 53
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Web: http://americancoldwarvets.org/
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