Obama: VA disability claims backlog down 20%

The overwhelming backlog of disability claims by veterans has been reduced by 20 percent since March, President Obama said in a speech at the Disabled American Veterans Convention in Orlando over the weekend.

The backlog, which stood at 611,000 claims in March, was down to 496,000 claims as of Aug. 9, White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed just prior to the speech. The news comes nearly two months after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that its joint web portal with the Department of Defense--eBenefits--had been installed at all 56 regional offices ahead of schedule; the tool integrates with the internal Veteran Benefits Management System, enabling disability compensation claims to be processed more quickly online.

"We're turning the tide," Obama said. "And we're not going to let up until we eliminate the backlog once and for all.

Obama added that the VA will continue to press forward using "paperless systems" to ensure that claims "are processed right--the first time, on time."

In April, 67 U.S. senators sent Obama a letter calling for more direct involvement in the claims backlog debacle. One month earlier, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said that the electronic claims system would help end the backlog by 2015.

In its budget request in April, the VA asked for $3.683 billion for IT projects, $155 million of which it said would be designated for the system.

To learn more:
- here's Obama's speech transcribed
- read the transcripts of Carney's press conference

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