House Veterans Affairs Committee Reviews Disability Claims Processing Backlog

Dec 7, 2005

WASHINGTON,
D.C. -
Today, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing
to address the challenges facing the disability claims processing by the
Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).  The
Committee received testimony from representatives of the VBA and from veterans
service organizations on this issue.  Over
the past two years, the backlog of pending claims and the amount of time
required to process a claim has increased significantly. 

"Given
that we have a new generation of veterans being created by Operations Iraq and
Enduring Freedom, it is important that we get through this backlog now so that
all veterans get their benefits," said Michaud.

As of
December 5, 2005, there were 370,197 rating-related claims pending a decision,
23 percent of which have been pending over 180 days, and 150,099 appeals
actions pending at regional offices.  Togus
VA Medical Center in Maine
is slightly better than the national average with 22 percent of its
rating-related claims pending over 180 days and 603 appeals actions pending at
the regional office.  In fiscal year 2005
it took VBA an average of 155.4 days to process a rating-related claim.  By September 2003, VBA had reduced the number
of rating claims to 253,000, and the average days pending to 111.  However, by December 12, 2003, the rating
claims inventory had increased to 347,534, and both the number of
rating-related claims pending and nonrating-related claims pending before VBA
continues to grow. 

"National
wide, the system is coming under greater pressure, and we have a lot of
catching up to do," said Michaud.  "Our
nation's veterans have earned the right to have their cases heard without delay
in a reasonable time frame."

The
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that it will receive more than
464,000 reopened claims in fiscal year 2006. 
In total, the number of compensation and pension claims filed and that
require a disability rating has increased annually from 585,565 in fiscal year
2000 to 788,298 in fiscal year 2005 (35% increase).  In fiscal year 2005, VA received 1,407 more
claims each month for service-connected disability compensation than in fiscal
year 2004.

The VA provides monetary benefits to 2.6 million service-connected disabled veterans;
335,166 low income wartime veterans who are either permanently and totally
disabled due to a nonservice-connected disability or who are age 65 or older;
and 345,075 surviving spouses and dependent children. 

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