Let’s reverse the backlog, not just slow it

The Department of Veterans Affairs faces extraordinary challenges as the second decade of the 21st century unfolds. There’s a new GI Bill to manage. Employment and business opportunities for veterans are hard to stimulate in a slowly recovering economy. Access to affordable health care, hope for the homeless and proper burial for those who honorably served our nation are costly and unwieldy to provide, even for the second-largest arm of the federal government.The fastest-swelling elephant in the kitchen, however, is the backlog of undecided VA benefits claims. The speed, efficiency and accuracy of VA’s outdated, paper-based claims-adjudication process influences almost every other aspect of the system. A claims decision determines a veteran’s access to VA health care. A claims decision can relieve a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder from the vicious cycle of substance abuse and family instability. A claims decision can help a veteran entrepreneur get a federal contract or leave a job that is slowly making a service-connected disability worse.That is why VA’s current situation – somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million undecided claims – cannot be tolerated anymore. The White House has recommended hiring 4,000 new VA claims processors in fiscal year 2011, simply to prevent the problem from getting a lot worse. That is not good enough. We need to reverse the backlog.Politicians on both sides of the aisle have promised to make VA’s antiquated claims-adjudication process a high priority, as they have since the Eisenhower administration. And yet here we are, slipping down the slope of VA’s inability to keep up with a claims curve that grew by 75 percent between 2000 and 2009. VA officials themselves say the average veteran’s wait for a benefits decision can be expected to increase to 190 days, up from 158, by early 2011. What a disgrace.The American Legion must continually remind federal officials that proper care for veterans is a delayed cost of war. The same U.S. government that prepares and sends Americans to battle, then passes and administers laws providing benefits after discharge, cannot simply drag its feet and try to outlast the obligation. Too many veterans believe the government they swore to protect now just wants them to die, along with their unresolved claims.VA’s adjudication process is bogged down in part because work is graded not by satisfactory completion of a case but by the successful transfer of a file from one desk to another. This work-credit system needs to be overhauled. In an era when most Americans can file their income taxes or apply for college aid online within an hour, technological solutions that ease the process without compromising quality are quite possible. Social Security benefits are most often in the hands of those who need them within a month of filing. We know VA is working on this, but delivery of a new system cannot just be a high priority year after year. It needs to be a reality now. A new generation of service-disabled Americans is pouring into VA looking for help. And yes, veterans of past wars are still here, too, waiting and wondering about their claims. We have waited too long.


  1. Great post, do you mind if I re-blog this (with full attribution and linking)? I really want to share it with my readers, they would find it very useful.

  2. When I first started going to the VA, I was under the impression that the VA was an extension of the Military.
    REVELATION: It Ain't !! More than half of the VA staff nationwide are Civilians. They've never had one moment in Uniform. And you wonder why there is a Backlog?
    Doesn't matter what Service you are; what General worth his Stars is going to allow such a Backlog under His or Her Command.
    That's Disgraceful!!! Make the VA a Military Command. Take it away from the Civilians. These Guys and Gals coming home would set the paperwork straight in short order. Remember your Motto: VETERANS HELPING VETERANS !
    Here's where you should be starting.

  3. For years, problems in the VA's benefits branch have been the subject of Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports and congressional hearings. During 2007, the VA received sizable increases in its budget and began hiring thousands of new employees; yet, the backlog is worsening.

    The VA has an apparent leadership problem since their increased budget and workforce have yet to benefit the flawed claims process. VA requires that employees meet production quotas. It's a convoluted system of earning points for processing the paperwork in a claims file. The idea is to bring down the backlog, but it also leads employees to make haphazard mistakes just to obtain performance points.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs should provide timely financial compensation for our veterans who were disabled by their military service; yet, they make it a bureaucratic circus of apathy and self greed at the expense of our deserving veterans.
    During the month of March 2009, the VA's insp

  4. Yes, they would like that. You can bet your case would get closed fast then!! But you know what? I am noit going anywhere..I will keep after the VA and everyone else, I can think of until they get sick of me.
    We served our country, proudly, came home, woundede and never the same as we were.
    Well, look out..I for one and not going anywhere! Let alone "go away and die". I would have died for my country but not for those pencil pushing lazy VA workers
    Things need to change. I am here to stay so get used to me VA, do your Damm jobs and stop being so uselesss and lazy

  5. I have been fighting their system since 1994. I have to go back it seems each year to get results and then wait on the "system" to increase my benefits. My PTSD is getting worse and effecting my job but the VA will not increase my benefits because I'm still working. It just doesn't make sense. One situation is making the other one worse and they don't want to help.

  6. I know several Vets who have died before their claims for benefits were approved or denied, either way. Did them no good at all. This is a very serious problem and should not be taking place. M
    My husband has been sick since 1968, has applied several times, missed an appointment in 1997 and was promply denied.
    Theses people served for us, kept us all safe and now they have to beg for help and most or a lot die before they will ever recieve any help.
    I researched it on internet. The cases are all being pushed from desk to desk...never really taken care of.
    I have even offered to go work at VA and help. There is enough people out there who could do this and we could get something done.
    Any ideas?? I have talked to everyone I can think of, to help my husband. His condition is only getting worse.
    We neeed to organize and get all our vets together and family memebers and get something done. Senator Carl Levan offers to help but I have not seen much out of him yet

  7. I feel the same way at times . I have been waiting to have my hip replaced since June 09, due to Avascular Necrosis, But all they do is keep me drugged up on pain killers but that band-aid is getting old wrong!Just replace the hip. I want my life back.

  8. 14 months and still waiting on a claim. Being 78 years old I probably will never see it completed. How much trouble would I have been in if it took me that long to answer to the "call of duty"?
    Lost records, how convenient! How convenient when I die and they can just drop the claim....

  9. Is this true? If so why does it not answer some of the questions we have about va service.Sent: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 7:53:08 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
    Welcome to IRAM. (formerly known as the United States of America.) You must now bow down to KING HUSSEIN!

    This is not acceptable. What do you former servicemen think about this?
    ToneyHERE IS HIS RESPONSE WHEN HE BACKED OFF FROM HIS DECISION TO REQUIRE THE MILITARY PAY FOR THEIR WAR INJURIES.WHAT AN EMPTY HEADED PERSON HE MUST BE. Bad press, including major mockery of the plan by comedian Jon Stewart, led to President Obama abandoning his proposal to require veterans carry private health insurance to cover the estimated $540 million annual cost to the federal government of treatment for injuries to military personnel received during their tours on active duty. The President admitted that he was puzzled by the magnitude of the opposition to his p

  10. I got my new legion magazine today, and was very glad to see some of the leaders of the legion standing up for changes. If here was seriuosnes about changing the system then this would have happend long ago. why did you wait till the back- log is so great. Are we hoping that many of them waiting on claims will die before thier day in court. I have seen many often go this way as they waited for some needed help. And silently there cases were closed, and I could hear in the halls of the V.A.a sigh of relief that one more was gone. The leaders on these commities should hang there head in shame, but that would take some integrity. which you aparently dont have. "shame on you all."

  11. as a older vet also, I'm appaled at this "not suprized" . the whole system is full of corruption with alot of derelecition of duty. We own this sytem "vets" we have to take hold by the horns. I would encourage evey veteran, and active duty to write your senators and congress man. I myself have been waiting also for claims 9 months for the first go around. Have had to submit my information twice, due to the delays of incompentent employees in the system.I have ask the v.a. for an exam over 10 months ago no responce from them. we have set by and let ths system work against us, not for us. the american people would support us on our concerns. my sentor "george vonavich" other congressman I have written to. Have found it convenint to ignore us veterans and our needs. we won't forget you at election time. " we have to be pro-acvtive and not reactive in our work to change this broken system taking it back from the corruption. our list goes on to camp luejuine water. "the few the forgoten"

  12. Claim process is snail slow and more often than not, totally off base with their rationale for a denial. I have spent over 15 years with a PTSD claim from Vietnam. Because of bad to no record keeping over their, I am screwed. I did get Diabetes due to agent orange, now getting peripheral neuropathy, and they tell me I had to file for that within 1 year of leaving country. Really????...............Needless to say I did appeal and it has now been three years waiting for a decision.

  13. Last I heard, veterans who opt to have the American Legion assist them with their claim wind up waiting twice as long. While the help is nice, the wait is simply too long!

    I'm curious - the VA is hiring so many more staff, and making attempts to eradicate the problem, but what is the Legion going to do to keep up with them? Are you also going to hire 4000 staff members to work claims?

  14. So I got loud about it and started posted on the "OpenVA" web site. They actually called my post off topic and closed it. So I copied & pasted it and put it right back.

    I figure since I'm related to a a Congressman (Obama friend) & in Chicago I'd cash in on my family. I'd advise keeping detailed records of whom you speak with to get through the system. I am and those who have helped will be praised & the others noted. If you'd like to laugh here's a snippet my exchange with the "OpenVA"
    (I'll be faxing it to my congress woman, she is across the hall from my relative)
    I don't see how this is off topic; Or be moved or "closed"
    I think this is a real issue especially in term of access & cooperation between state/federal levels. Closing it and moving to off topic misses my point, sorry if I am saying "the emperor has no closes".
    I think accountability is key.
    Mr. Christopher C. Pieschala Veteran of Operation Desert Storm - USAF

  15. I hear that, I been out almost two years now, and only filed my claim last month. Was told by three different offices (two of them V.A. (how come a V.A. office cant talk to the others since they are ALL THE V.A.?)) that my records where in FOUR different places. I have missing pages, WHOLE missing sections (mental health that is like 90% of my claim), OTHER peoples records in mine, mulitple copies of pages, pages were changed, pages copied on other machines(left marks on the edges that proves it was copied multiple times on different machines). Hosptial where I got out didnt send me all, V.A. gives me the run around (cant find) on my records, tell me they didnt get a signed dated copy of the form for my request but I get other files on the same request sent to me (with a signed dated copy of the request). ONLY THING WORSE THAT SEVERING IN THE B.S MILITARY IS THE CRAPPY SERVICE YOU GET AFTER YOU SERVE, THEN YOU GOT TO JUMP THROUGH HOOPS, AND THEN BLAIMS THE VET. THIS SYSTEM IS BULLSHIT!

  16. I was exposed to Agent Orange in Viet Nam when I was 19 years old. I suffered a miocardial infarction (heart attack) due to a completely blocked coronary artery 11 years later at the age of 30! I had double by-pass surgery just 10 years later at 40. I Finally ended up on total disability with a diagnosis of Ischemic Heart Disease. I didn't file a claim with the VA until February 2006. My claim was denied in August 2008, I am appealing the decision(waiting for de novo review by DRO at the RO) What I would like to comment on is the process at the Regional Office taking so long to review these claims! When I made a choice to go with the DRO rather than the traditional appeal process. I thought it was designed to save time. I later learned that the DRO at the Albuquerque Office has 300 days! to review my claim file. With case management like that its easy to see why there's a backlog of over a million claims!

  17. I'm sorry for you (my Uncle served two tours in Nam)but at least your alive to make claims (I'm sure that he got sprayed too but died a few years ago so it's F.U. from the Government and the V.A. to the family members, he had a MASSIVE heart attack and was dead before he hit the ground(from what my brother told me that the coroner told him)). All my claims are mental stuff that you cant run test on, and IF they can IT'S all based on opinion of people making the decision so there's no HARD proof to fight them against with and we all know how opionions and paperwork gets changed, lost, misplaced and all the other b.s stuff comes up if you disagree and try to fight stuff.

  18. I would like 190 days, my claim was filed in Jan 2000. The whole system is being abused. I just had a laywer get a remand at The Court of Veteran Appeals to get missing records. I found the records on my own 8 months ago. None of the real issues were remanded. Just the missing records, so the lawer is claiming successful remand and now they get paid to help. But everyone takes the easy way out, just to get paid!

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