The Veterans Affairs Department reports it has a backlog of 898,861 disability claims, with 632,358, or 70.5 percent stuck in the system for over 125 days.
Joseph Violante, national legislative director at Disabled American Veterans, told a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today that these figures don’t convey the true picture of the backlog. He said the length of time it takes to process veterans' claims also continues to rise, with the average processing time now almost 280 days. Veterans Benefit Administration regional offices in New York and Los Angeles average 450 and 500 days respectively to process a claim, Violante told the hearing.
While VA predicts the new Veterans Benefits Management System, a paperless processing system, will help eliminate the backlog by 2015, Violante said a focus just on the backlog ignores the problems that created the pile of claims. The backlog, he said, is a symptom, not the cause of VBA's claims processing problems.
VBA today faces the same core problems that have plagued it for decades, Violante said: “Too many claims being processed and adjudicated inaccurately without sufficient accountability for the results, rather than a system designed to decide each claim right the first time.”
Technology and a change in business processes can help whittle down the backlog, but the key is “a cultural transformation built upon the foundations of quality, accuracy and accountability,” Violante said.
It looks like good places to start with this cultural change are the VBA regional office in New York and LA.