Contributed by Javier Centonzio
For the first time since July 2013, VA’s disability claims backlog has increased. The backlog consists of claims that have been pending for over 125 days. The claims backlog grew by almost 2,000 last week to a total of 401,562. This increase comes just two weeks after VA decided to suspend mandatory overtime for employees that are tasked with processing claims.
Delays and poor decision making by VA are nothing new to veterans waiting for their claims to be processed. In March 2013 the backlog peaked at 900,000 claims which prompted the decision to implement mandatory overtime for claims processors. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki ordered the mandatory overtime in May 2013 for claims processors in all 56 VA regional offices, which resulted in a minimum of 20 hours of overtime a month per employee.
Many veterans recall Secretary Shinseki’s promise to end the backlog by 2015, but that promise seems very unlikely as we head into 2014. When asked about his decision to end the mandatory overtime, Secretary Shinseki told reporters that his claims processors could “[only] go full throttle for so long.” In the meantime, veterans around the country are left waiting to receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Because of the disability claims backlog, veterans should expect longer delays in getting their claims decided and prepare for an even longer fight if their claims are denied and they decide to appeal. Our veterans advocates stand ready to represent veterans who decide to appeal a decision by VA.