By Steve Fogel
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will join the fray over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ growing backlog of disability claims at a subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning.
The backlog of claims filed by veterans seeking disability benefits has soared in recent years as troops have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and because of a policy change making it easier for Vietnam veterans to file Agent Orange-related claims.
The problem has been the focus of a number of hearings before the House and Senate veterans committees.
In April, when the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the issue, the backlog stood at 903,000.
As of Tuesday, the number of claims stood at 919,461, including 66 percent pending over 125 days.
Last week, VA Under Secretary Allison Hickey held a media roundtable to discuss training initiatives for VA employees that the department says are yielding faster and more accurate decisions on pending claims.
Wednesday’s hearing from the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations will seek more details from Hickey about the changes, according to a statement from the Oversight committee.
The steps taken to improve the claims-processing system are encouraging, a veterans’ representative said.
“It is far too early to make judgments about whether it will succeed, and there are many challenges remaining, but there are some reasons to be optimistic that it could succeed,” Joseph A. Violante, national legislative director for the Disabled American Veterans, said in his prepared testimony for Wednesday’s hearing.