Department of Defense to Help with VA Claims Backlog

Department of Defense Workers Come to the Aid of VA Staff

Why is the Department of Defense to help with VA claims backlog? In a press conference yesterday, Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, said that the backlog of new veterans claims impacts the Department of Defense as well as the VA. “We owe it to them to give them the tools they need to succeed,” said Panetta. “In many ways this is a national security issue. It goes to the heart of taking care of people who fought for us.”

The VA has set a goal of reducing the time taken for a new claim from an average 260 days to 125 days by 2015. To do so, the DoD and VA are sharing medical information about servicemembers who are leaving the military; improving the quality of discharge physicals; sharing medical facilities; and improving the health of servicemembers before discharge. The idea, in general, is to create a better medical history in the hope of creating more fully developed claims when the servicemember transitions from the DoD system into the VA system.

The VA, on its own, has added staff; tried to improve information technology; created new quality control programs; and segregated simple claims from complex claims, creating a claim processing system of two or three different “tracks” – simple, complex, and specialized (like Gulf War Syndrome). Despite these efforts, the VA appears to struggle to keep up with the volume of new claims. Last year the VA processed around 1 million claims; but, around 1 million new claims entered the system. The flow of new claims entering the system equals the flow of new claims leaving the system. So, the backlog appears to be stagnating at the moment.

Read the Stars and Stripes article on the DoD and VA joint effort: “DOD lends staff to VA to address claims backlog.”

Why Does it Take So Long for VA to Process Claims?

Over the course of the past few months, this blog has catalogued three reasons for long delays in claim satisfaction: a high VA error rate, systemic delays built into advocate and regulation, and the high volume of claims entering the system.

What can you do about it? For individual veterans’ claims, of course it helps if the claim is properly filed and supported from the beginning. This helps avoid your claim being wrongly denied — which can require you to wait even longer for benefits while you appeal the denial. If you need assistance, call our veterans benefits advocates at (855) 855-8992 or complete our free online case evaluation form to learn how we can help you.

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