Senate calls on Obama to handle VA backlog fiasco

With the disability claims backlog debacle at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spiraling out of control, outcry for the situation is reaching a fever pitch. Case in point, 67 U.S. senators on Monday sent a letter to President Obama calling for him to be more directly involved in the situation.

"After a decade of war, and despite the VA's efforts to modernize, more than 600,000 veterans are still stuck in the VA's disability claims backlog," the senators wrote. "While the average wait time for first time disability claims currently ranges between 316 and 327 days, veterans in certain parts of the country are waiting even longer--681 days in Reno, 642 days in New York … and 510 days in Philadelphia."

The senators added that in the worst-case scenarios, are still waiting after 1,000 days for a disability claims decision.

"In the last four years, the number of claims pending for over a year has grown by over 2000 percent, despite a 40 percent increase in the VA's budget," they said.

According to Nextgov, the VA reported on Monday that it had more than 882,000 backlogged claims, 69 percent of which have been backlogged for more than 125 days. Last week, Acting VA CIO Stephen Warren said that the agency had installed its paperless disability claims processing systems in 36 of 57 regional offices; it expects to install systems in five more offices this week.

In March, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said that the electronic claims system would help end the backlog by 2015. In its budget request earlier this month, 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:
- read the senators' letter (.pdf)
- here's the Nextgov article

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