The Veterans Affairs Department considers claims processing its top budget priority in 2014, followed by access to health care and homelessness, the department said in a media advisory on its planned budget briefing this afternoon.
This reflects the intense pressure VA has come under from veterans groups and Congress this year as backlogged disability claims hover near -- and on March 25 passed -- the 900,000 mark. Department officials reported the claims backlog totaled 889,981 Monday, up 4,913, or half a percent from 885,068 on April 1.
The White House, in an April 5 preview of the 2014 VA budget, said it plans to request $155 million for the paperless Veterans Benefits Management System, which is designed to eliminate the disability claims backlog by 2015.
This is four times higher than VBMS’ 2013 funding level of $38.5 million, which was a 40 percent cut from the $92.5 million VA had originally requested for 2013.
VA spent $382 million on the project from 2011 through 2013. If Congress approves the 2014 budget, it will have cost $527 million. Nextgov reported in January that VA had paid the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic $105 million to help develop VBMS.