Disability Claims Backlog Reduced by 44 Percent Since Peaking One Year Ago

backlog drop-vba-updateOne year after the backlog of pending disability compensation claims peaked at over 611,000 in March 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reduced that number by approximately 44 percent to 344,000 claims – a reduction of more than 267,000 – while at the same time improving the accuracy of the decisions being made on Veterans’ disability claims. Additionally, on average, Veterans are waiting 119 days less for a decision than they were at this time last year.

“No Veteran should have to wait to receive earned benefits. Through a combination of transformation initiatives and the hard work of our employees, we are making significant progress toward our goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. “We still have more work to do, and no one is more committed than our Veterans Benefits Administration employees, over half of whom are Veterans themselves.”

The current backlog, defined as claims pending more than 125 days, is at its lowest point since March 2011, when the backlog spiked in part because of the need to readjudicate 150,000 previously decided cases involving exposure to the Vietnam-era defoliant, Agent Orange. The readjudication of these claims was mandated under the Nehmer court decision and followed the Secretary’s decision to add ischemic heart disease, certain leukemias, and Parkinson’s disease to the list of conditions presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange. During this same time period, VA also received and processed over 100,000 new claims for these three conditions from Vietnam Veterans and survivors newly eligible for VA benefits as a result of this decision.

“We knew taking care of this ‘unfinished business’ for Veterans of previous wars would initially drive up the number of claims in our system. But it was the right thing to do,” said Secretary Shinseki.

Since establishing the goal in 2010 of processing all disability claims within 125 days at a 98-percent accuracy level, VA developed and is implementing a plan that transforms the decades-old, manual paper claim approach into a state-of-the-art electronic process that leverages digital data transfer and automated calculators to reduce processing time and input errors.

VA has also increased the productivity of its claims processing workforce through enhanced training, streamlined business processes and other initiatives such as mandating overtime and prioritizing the oldest claims, allowing VA’s 56 regional benefits offices to exceed monthly production records four times in fiscal year 2013.

At the same time, the accuracy of rating decisions continues to improve. VA’s national “claim-level” accuracy rate, determined by dividing the total number of cases that are error-free by the total number of cases reviewed, is currently 91 percent – an eight-percentage-point improvement since 2011. When measuring the accuracy of rating individual medical conditions inside each claim, the three-month accuracy level is 96.5 percent. VA’s accuracy measures are statistically valid and the process has been independently verified by the Institute for Defense Analyses.

VA claims processors 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 a Veteran 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 any illness associated with their service.

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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40 Comments to “Disability Claims Backlog Reduced by 44 Percent Since Peaking One Year Ago”

  1. perry moxley says:

    I remarried last October 3, 2012 and filed my wife as my dependent until now my record is not yet updated. I was told over the phone when I contacted the VA in Louisville that it will take one or two years I am a 100% disabled and my wife is not working it will help us a lot if the benefit for my wife be released.

    • Brent says:

      I am in the same situation. Married Feb 2012 and filled my claim then. Still nothing over a year later. I can understand a medical claim taking sometime, but how hard is it to check if I got married or I didn’t??? Shouldn’t take a year to clear this……………..

      • Marilyn says:

        and then they have those that do list spouses, but are not actually married. I know at least one person who gets dependency money for a spouse, but does not live anywhere near that ‘spouse’ and usually has an outwardly open boyfriend. Perhaps the rules should be more specific.

    • Ralph says:

      The VA are doing me the same way, and now I have knowledge that my claims go back to 1987.

    • Reynaldo Leal says:

      VBA has changed the way dependent requests are done. Check out this link for more info.

      http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/13707/new-technology-automates-veterans-requests-to-update-family-member-status/

      If you have a new or pending request to update a family member’s status? To submit a request, log into your Premium eBenefits account and hover your mouse over the Apply for Benefits tab. Click on Add Depend. An interview-style questionnaire will launch to guide you through the process of making changes to your family member status. Remember, you must be receiving compensation at a combined rate of at least 30 percent in order to receive added payment for family members.

  2. Jeff Burum says:

    I highly doubt any statistics the VA puts out from my own recent personal experiences: Nov 2013 Denied presumptive Gulf War Illnesses on chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, bid with VA presumptive Ltd, VA WRIIC Med Records and diagnoses, 3 Tricare doctor diagnoses on file with VA over 3 yrs. Saw my records disappear online Step 2013 then had to call to have them replaced back into benefits Oct 2013. Horrible.

    • SIR: i have had claim in for 2 injures one in army one in air force filed these papers in fresno,calif in year ??? anyway it been years since i heard from vet-gov. have letter but no more letters i think the gov. has lost or forgotten about lot gi’s. thanks.

    • Werner Muhlberg says:

      My claim dated from 2011 was delayed until 2013, we finally got a doctor appointment in the city, parking a mess only to see this doctor who asked if I could bend over to touch my toes and check if my neck had a range of motion. I was denied 4 days later. Oh, by the way we cannot find your records. I was at the clinic for 2 1/2 years with their dentist after my duty was over. I was a tank commander injured while maintaining it, resulting in lower back, teeth (dental) and neck pain. Many years of chiropractic visits, to discover that I have degenerative disk disease, ear and hearing problems, which all started in the ARMY. I finally demanded x-rays taken instead of just taking pills they kept pushing; now the VA is finally doing something, but I still have no benefits, not able to work either. Now what do we do after being denied?

      • Marilyn says:

        same with me. They set me up with a private physician after 6 or 8 months, but the physician didn’t check much and then I got a denial real soon after that. Why do many see VA doctors and others are set up with private ones? I guess we will think they are being more objective…? I’m not sure about that…

      • Ralph says:

        Appeal form 9 to the Board of Veterans appeals (Bva).

  3. John says:

    So, I have to commend the VA for reducing the backlog. Good work, folks.

    Let’s look at that 91% accuracy thing. Very deceptive. It’s only a partial measure of accuracy.

    That measure looks at accuracy as defined by “some folks from the VA reviewed their peers’ work and found they agreed with the rating 91% of the time.” So, basically what we’re saying here is that one out every ten claims wasn’t rated accurately by VA’s own standards.

    What the measure is missing is:

    1. How many/what percentage of claims processed were subsequently appealed because the Veteran disagreed with the rating?

    2. Of the claims appealed, in how many cases/what percentage was the Veteran successful?

    Let’s take a sample case. My initial claim took one year. Therefore it was backlogged about eight months. It was reviewed by someone before posting and they agreed with the 10% disability rating. So, in VA’s measure, that claim was accurate.

    I appealed. After a year it the rating was raised to 20%. I appealed again and after going before a judge and a few years later, I was rated 40%, which in my estimation was what I should have been rated five or six years earlier.

    Most importantly, both a VA judge and a number of other reviewing staff subsequently agreed that the initial 10% rating was wrong. As in error. As in mistaken. As in if it had been done correctly the first time, I wouldn’t have waited a little over six years to get a correct rating.

    Six years is a long time.

    The stats you’re reporting above? Totally incomplete picture. It makes it look like 91% of the Veterans whose claims are processed in under 125 days all happy and warm and fuzzy and rated correctly.

    In fact, there exist a number of them who will, like me and my peers, go through multiple years of appeals to get a correct rating.

    So, what you have above are “apparent accuracy” and “apparent backlog” or maybe “reported accuracy” and “reported backlog.”

    Until VA includes appeal statistics the picture of the backlog is inaccurate and misleading.

    Anyway, good job getting the cases for which Veterans have been waiting for some form of answer down. Really. That’s good work.

    Now, finish the task, but more importantly, start telling the whole truth.

    • Marilyn says:

      Sometimes I think they just go through and disallow a lot of them and figure they’ll deal with the appeals later…

      • John says:

        Marilyn:

        Yep. I wonder that myself. Actually, I really am convinced that they award 10% and see if you go away or appeal.

        Here’s ten percent. Claim closed. Not part of the backlog stats anymore.

        The VA will not be fully transparent in its claims processing until it starts posting appeals data. Length of appeal, number of appeals denied, number of appeals awarded, average percent increase, etc.

    • Ralph says:

      Good comment John!

    • Rhonda says:

      What a mess! My husband served in the Korean war and was on the front lines for 14 months. He has been denied 2 times until we got a Senator involved. Now it’s been 3 years and we are waiting on the appeal. I don’t think they care much about the vets!

  4. Brian K. Gowan says:

    Their is an answer to a adjustment claim in January. And a reinstatement from last September and still only 44.60. Not very forthcoming with any answers.

  5. Mo says:

    The VA must think we are idiots, My claim it been in process for over 12 months and it is for a Temprary 100% increase for a surgery I did in Feb 2013. That temporary increase was suppose to be to help cover expenses for not being able to work for a while. Today i read the news release about the 44% decrease in the back log and I was rolling on the floor laughing. I guess it makes people that are working at the VA feel better about themselves when the get a news release like this one. You know that the Veterans unemployment rate is over 25%, if the VA will take some of these Vetrans and have them working on reducing the back log there will be no moreback log

  6. Dave Jamison says:

    They reduced the backlog by swift denial of claims! Why don’t
    They post those statistics?

    • Yvonne Levardi says:

      Dave, if that was the case there would be no backlog! VA grants close to 70 percent of all claims.

    • maybe the have less to pay put because they denie anyone who really needs it have been trying to get a disagreement to them but have had no one to help me write one for Kenneth d blagburn that’s not what I call getting things done marieblagburn

  7. michael plummer says:

    I AGREE with the other guy on the numbers. MICHIGAN regional office in DETROIT you will get delayed then denied or low balled. either way benefits are held up family and veterans suffer.

  8. John F Ensch says:

    At the expense of all older veterans. I’ve talked to many older vets who say they were denied. I’ve also talked with younger vets who say their claims were approved. “Gee”, I wonder what that says. The VA has treated me well and I have no complaints about the medical care and the VA hospital facilities. But, the way they handle the claims process is truely awful. When I went for my claims interview I got this idiot who obviously did not care one thing about what was going on or the effects of her determination on someones life. The way she asked the questions and the way she handled herself was extremely unprofessional. After the interview I was angry and left with a bad taste in my mouth. My claim was denied on the basis of what this person said. I haven’t submitted another claim since, figuring I’ll end up getting someone just like her or worse. Be ashamed Bay Pines VA, be very ashamed.

  9. Paul Lazar says:

    Why do you people lie. I have been waiting since 2007. Then you
    Make us appeal because a C and P dr who is not even a doctor tells
    a lie again. All you want us to do is die die die. Tell the truth for once!!!!

  10. Anthony Smith says:

    I have been waiting for approval of the VA since 2007. Everytime I call the Regional VA center who is supposedly handling my claim; I get the following: the next time you hear from us (the VA) will be either requesting for additional information or your compensation will be started. Well, its 2014 and to tell you the truth, I think the VA wants us to die off before they start compensation for us. Ridiculous!!!!!! Please approve what I deserved!

    • Jeanne M. Zimmermann says:

      I am in the same situation. I call the call center same crap different day. They need more information, but from whom? No one can answer that question.

  11. Hector Cano says:

    That is good news! Is there any previsions for veterans who are, and have been waiting years for a vedieo conference appeal? this has been a very difficult time for many of us who are waiting on appeals. I became disabled five years ago, went form $125,000 yearly income to $36,000 SSDI, have spend all my retirement money and am in dire financial straits. My credit score went form 780 to 550 in four months because I am not meeting my monthly credit obligations. This is good news and hope that the system continues betting better so that the veterans who are just in the filing process do not have to go through what many of us have. I am grateful for all positive changes.

  12. Mylie Reid says:

    Would like to see the numbers on appeals. It will be 3 years in June. I am told, my case is currently in the Houston Region Office.

  13. Juan feliciano says:

    I left the service with a 20 % disability which quickly
    Was lowered to 10%. I found that I was a pre-diabetic and they did nothing
    To notified me. I am now awaiting a decision on a claim they
    Have been denying since 1995.let me not forget my Gulf war illness claims that have fallen on deaf ears

  14. Alex says:

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  15. Dan F says:

    Once again we have a topic where the VA is touting their “achievements.” And, once again we have many comments by those who these statistics are meaningless, – the veterans who are suffering.

    A 44% reduction of an intolerable situation is being lauded as a huge step forward. To the vets who have had their claim finally decided it is aggravating it took so long. To the vets who have had claims pending for years, until their claim is decided, this is nothing more than the VA saying we are going to get to you sooner or later. The only problem, especially for the Vietnam vet, is that later sometimes means, when it no longer matters.

    The proclamation made by Shenseki in the article , “No Veteran should have to wait to receive earned benefits,” isn’t necessary. We know that. We didn’t say wait a few years when we were on active duty and called to a mission. The VA wasn’t prepared, and still isn’t prepared to meet the needs of our veterans.

    How about a letter from the President and Shinseki, to each veteran who has a claim, and personally apologizing for the delay? Why them? Those are the pictures of the people I see when I walk into any VAMC or Regional Office. An old saying in business is, the speed of the pack is the speed of the leader.

  16. maurice scott says:

    To my fellow veterans, in any organization, the corp makes good policy. The va did but our. Problem is and always will be, they left the same corrupt, no account, not all, but enough folks. In place, and expect change. Its time to clear the toliets of these regional offices, start in columbia, sc please

  17. rozell cobb says:

    My claim has been under review for over a year now I talk to someone and they told me It’s probably because I’m on deck…Now what does that mean

  18. rozell cobb says:

    I also get ssi and can’t work and haven’t work for ten years and still been denial 100%

  19. I have been waiting 4 years to hear from VA about my case and all I get from them is we finely a year ago they receive my records and are reviewing then no should have to wait that long for nothing no I did on go to Vietnam I did my time in Korea in 1967 close to the DMZ and don’t tell me no one got kill over there and it was on a war zone bull even spray with agent orange I need help I am depress my mental health is on a role coaster

    • John says:

      Earl:

      I’m sorry to read that you’re depressed and on a roller coaster mentally.

      You don’t have to wait for your disability claim to be processed before you ask for medical help. VA health care and VA disability are two seperate things.

      Eligibility for health care is insanenly hard to figure out on your own. There are eight catagories each with different eligibility requirements. The best thing is to go to the VA and ask if you’re eligible.

      Dude, if you’re depressed and on a mental health roller coaster, please try two things:

      1. Go to your nearest VA medical center and ask if you’re eligible for health care. If you are, then ask to be assigned to a primary care physician and more importantly ask for a mental health consult.
      2. Call the VA crisis line call 1-800-273-8255 and Press . Tell them you’re depressed an on mental roller coaster and need help. They can talk to you and can help with a referal.

      It took me twenty years to admit I had problems with post traumatic stress. A co-worker convinced me to call the crisis line. I did and was in therapy a couple weeks later.

      Best thing I did for myself in a long while.

      I’m still alive today thanks to getting help.

      Don’t wait for your claim to be processed. Call. Go. Ask.

      And if for soem reason they say you’re not eligible, ask them to refer you to a local community provider.

  20. Benjamin Schiappa says:

    As a US Marine Vietnam Veteran I have been waiting to hear from the VA since 2010 for my PTSD claim and on my agent orange claim I waited three years until I received a examination that did not include anything but a general verbal consult and then my claim was denied even though the VA conceded that I had been exposed and showed signs of Parkinson’s disease, neurological damage and prostate issues. I can’t co mend the VA for its efforts to reduce its backlog with this type of lackadaisical approach to its commitment to disabled Veterans.

  21. Michael Douds says:

    I have a really hard time believing this article. My own personal case is just the opposite of this propaganda. I filed for Agent Orange in Jan 2013. In March 2013, the day of my quadruple bypass surgery, I had to refile because my original claim was “lost”. Ten months later, I got a letter from the VA that stated that they had no record that I HAD EVER SERVED IN VIETNAM! I was almost in shock when I read that. Lucky for me that I save everything. I sent them TEN documents (copies of course) that I had saved, for 45 years, to prove that I had indeed served for a year and ten days in RVN from July 1968 until July 1969. Now, 14 months after my second claim, they want to send me to an “independent” doctor to check about my ischemic heart disease, even though my bypass surgery was done at a VA Hospital here in Pittsburgh. You don’t get much more ischemic than Quadruple Bypass Surgery but they’re going to check anyway, dragging the process out even longer. I still have not received a penny in compensation even though I obviously could not work last year. I did get a letter from Allegheny County saying that they are charging me penalty and interest for not paying property taxes last year. I wonder if the VA is going to pay penalty and interest to me? I think they should. Maybe a class action suit against them is in order. Looks like I have a lot of comrades in arms in the same situation.

  22. david caro says:

    I don’t understabd how you can said that when I do have a claim with over a year and when I call the person said that it will be till atleast 6 to 8 more months and why are they laying so much.

  23. Richard King says:

    I was diagnosed with A M L LEUKEMIA in 2003. I filed for compensation then. I served in Vietnam in areas where Agent Orange was used extensively. After many rounds of chemo, in and out of remission a few times I finally had a bone marrow transplant in 2007. All of my medical was through my wife’s insurance. I was denied of course, Gov. Says I don’ have the ‘right’ kind of LEUKEMIA. 2013 my claim finally made it to the Board of Veterans Appeals—as of this writing I am still waiting to hear from them. We served our country and this is how the ELITES treat the server classes!! It’s not right and all of our service members deserve better from this corrupt government.