We all know that the Veterans Affairs Department is swamped with claims from veterans for compensation, pension, education claims and appeals. Today, there are as many as 1.7 million of these types of claims in the VA system.
Yet, Diana Rubens, VA deputy under secretary for field operations, later opened her testimony before a panel drawn from several veterans service organizations by noting that the VA has reduced its claims backlog by 35 percent.
“What you see here is a cold-blooded assessment by VA officials that if they cannot achieve their goals under the current standards, they will change the rules to achieve their goals,” said Gerald Manar, deputy director of National Veterans Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“Today there are over 1.7 million compensation, pension and education claims and appeals. Instead of fully fixing the problem, VA leaders have redefined them,” Manar said. “Since VA couldn’t reduce the entire 1.7 million by 2015, they decided to define the workload as only disability claims requiring rating action.”
That’s how the federal bureaucrats solve a problem, not by fixing it but by redefining it. They are very good at putting lipstick on a pig.
Currently, there are about 700,000 disability claims in the VA system. This represents about 40% of the overall total of claims. By concentrating on the disability claims to other 60% of claims have not been processed at all.
As a result the inventory of claims filed by dependents of veterans has grown from about 40,000 to more than 630,000 in the past three years. The inventory of appeals has grown over the past year from 252,000 to more than 268,000.
The veterans’ organizations are also objecting to the VA changing the system of filing claims. The VA would like to move away from the current system to an electronic filing system in order to process the veterans’ claims faster.
The veterans’ organizations are opposed to this change because it causes veterans to lose their rightful entitlements such as retroactive monetary benefits just so that [the Veterans Benefits Administration] can speed the process.
Up to know veterans have been able to use a placeholder such as a letter to the VA in order to establish their claim date. Mandatory electronic filing would eliminate this informal process.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) is cosponsoring a bill which directs the Department of Defense to provide the complete service treatment records of veterans to the Department of Veterans Affairs in an efficient, electronic format.
Currently, the average veteran waits more than 250 days for a decision on a claim. About 175 days of that time is the VA waiting for the Pentagon to send the complete records, which DOD currently processes on paper rather than electronically.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which has been signed by the president, contains provisions of the VA Claims, Operations and Records Efficiency Act, which Barber cosponsored.