Burris: Backlog on VA claims less

A year ago, the backlog of Veterans Affairs disability compensation claims peaked at over 611,000 nationally.

All of those claims had been pending for more than 125 days.

Since then, the number has been cut nearly in half – down 44 percent to 344,000 claims.

“On average, veterans are waiting 119 days less for a decision than they were at this time last year,” according to a VA release.

The good news applies to Warren County.

“This is a good thing for veterans, as we are seeing these claims come back much faster,” Warren County Veterans Affairs Director Ed Burris said. “Our backlog of older claims is going down.”

“No veteran should have to wait to received earned benefits,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said in the press release. “We are making significant progress toward our goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015.”

Some of the backlog problem grew as a result of a court decision mandating the readjudication of 150,000 cases related to Agent Orange. Those old claims were joined by 100,000 new claims based on updates to the list of presumptive illnesses attributable to Agent Orange.

The agency is making headway.

“VA has increased the productivity of its claims processing workforce through enhanced training, streamlined business processes and other initiatives such as mandating overtime and prioritizing the oldest claims, allowing VA’s 56 regional benefits offices to exceed monthly production records four times in fiscal year 2013,” according to the VA press release.

There are things applicants can do to speed the process.

“The VA is processing claims much faster if the veteran is able to obtain private medical records that we submit with the claim,” Burris said.

The reduction of the backlog does not change the status of previous claims. Veterans whose claims were denied in the past should not expect to be approved on the same claim.

“Veterans still have to have a legitimate claim,” Burris said.

Information about veterans benefits is available at www.ebenefits.va.gov.