VA processing claims at record pace, but still can’t keep up

From Stars and Stripes

By Leo Shane III

WASHINGTON – Veterans Benefits Administration processors completed more benefits claims than ever before last month, wrapping up work on a record 107,462 cases. The agency also announced that it topped 1 million completed claims for the third fiscal year in a row, another historic mark.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the record pace of work barely made a dent in the massive benefits backlog which has plagued the system for years.

As of Sept. 4, more than 567,000 benefits claims had been awaiting completion by VBA workers for more than 125 days. That’s down almost 13,000 applications from the start of August, but up nearly 27,000 from January and 2,000 from June, when Veterans Affairs officials announced the reassignment of hundreds of claims processors to start attacking that problem.

In a statement, Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey said that the department is on the right track but “we realize much work remains to be done to better serve veterans. Too many veterans still wait too long.”

Department officials have set a goal of eliminating the backlog – all claims pending for more than 125 days – by the end of 2015. Last week, members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee publicly questioned whether that goal is feasible, considering the sluggish progress so far.

VA officials have also set a goal of 98 percent accuracy on claims processing by then. In the last year, that accuracy level has risen from 83 percent to 86 percent.

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