Congress Flexes Oversight Muscle Over VA Backlog

Drawing of Flexed BicepAs part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, Congress is focusing on the VA backlog, requiring the VA Secretary to submit a report every quarter with the following information:

  1. the average time to complete a disability compensation claim;
  2. the number of claims pending more than 125 days;
  3. error rates;
  4. the number of claims personnel;
  5. any corrective action taken within the quarter to address poor performance;
  6. training programs undertaken; and,
  7. the number and results of Quality Review Team Audits.

The Secretary submits the report to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses. Section 230 of the H.R. 3547 contains the list of requirements.

The purpose of the report, according to Congressman Mike Thompson, CA-5th District, is to “help hold the VA accountable for making sure our veterans and their families receive the benefits they have earned.” According to Thompson’s office, new VA claims take around 300 days – on average – to process. A quarterly report will provide some useful information, but any practical impact is doubtful. In recent years, Congressional scrutiny of VA operations has been intense. Over the past few years, we have seen weekly news articles, Congressional testimony, Monday morning reports, etc.

Some states are passing laws and issuing executive mandates to try to help with the VA backlog – like requiring better training for veteran service officers, funding clinics in law schools to help boost the inadequate supply of qualified advocates, and funding additional state run benefits packages (e.g., tax breaks or family assistance funds). These state based, local efforts to assist will probably make a bigger difference than an additional reporting requirement. Nevertheless, the quarterly reports will make interesting reading.

When the Committees on Appropriations receive the reports, we will endeavor to release the relevant and helpful information via the Veterans Help Group blog.

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