Paralyzed Veterans of America is encouraged by recent progress made by the VA to adjudicate disability compensation claims that have been pending for two years or more.
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday announced that a pilot program announced in April to expedite disability claims that have idled in the system for two years or more has eliminated more than 65,000 claims from the backlog.
The program – the provision rating pilot program – allowed claims that have been pending for more than years to be adjudicated within 60 days and rated based on the existing evidence of record. Veterans receiving provisional ratings can now submit additional evidence for consideration for one full year before the VA issues a final decision.
“I’m encouraged by the progress VA has made in bringing some semblance of closure to the lives of veterans who have been waiting for years on an answer,” said Sherman Gillums, Jr., associate executive director of veterans benefits at Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Still, Gillums cautioned that the progress is only as good as the accuracy of those provisional decisions, noting that many of the claims sat idle because the VA needed additional evidence to make a decision. “For claims that were either underrated or denied in light of missing evidence, there will be no closure for those veterans,” he said.
The VA said Thursday that Veterans Benefit Administration staff will complete the remaining two-year-old claims within the coming days, then will move on to completing claims for veterans who have been waiting more than one year for a decision.
In May 2013, the VA announced that it was mandating overtime for claims processors in its 56 regional offices to boost claims processing time. That effort has reduced the number of claims pending more than 125 days by 10 percent, to the lowest level since August 2011, VA said.
“VA deserves credit for taking action by tackling the oldest claims in the backlog,” Gillums said. “But there are far more claims in the backlog that are at least a year old or more. This will require more resources and manpower than that needed for the two-year old claims.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Benefits Department
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.