Veterans Affairs reduces disability claims backlog by one third since March

BY newsdesk  December 30, 2013 at 2:59 PM EST

The Obama administration’s secretary of veterans affairs, Eric Shinseki, said the agency’s made progress with its initiative to eliminate the disability backlog by 2015. Photo courtesy of Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veteran Affairs said Monday that it’s on track to eliminate the disability claims backlog by 2015, Stars and Stripes reports.

VA officials said the backlog — referring to the number of disability claims pending for more than 125 days — was reduced to 393,000 cases from its peak of 608,000 in March of this year.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the multi-year initiative was helped by mandatory overtime for the agency’s workforce and new computer processing systems that pushed the agency, Shinseki told PBS NewsHour in March, to “come out of paper to go into electronics.”

Video by PBS NewsHour

“I’m not dusting my hands off and saying this is a done deal,” Shinseki told reporters in November. “This is: More work to be done.”

The agency promised to have all disability claims processed within 125 days with a 98 percent accuracy in 2015. But critics have warned that the agency’s accuracy problems could upend any progress made with the reduction of the backlog. In September, American Legion national commander Daniel Dellinger told House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees that the VA’s accuracy rate hovered around the mid-80s.

The Post also reports that adding to the backlog are more than 250,000 veterans appealing decisions. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals is expecting the number of pending cases to double over the next four years. Stars and Stripes reports that the VA promised to tackle the appeals backlog as its next focus.