VA Disability Claims Backlog Expected to Fall Below 800,000 on Wednesday

By Bob Brewin

June 26, 2013

The Veterans Affairs Department expected to cut its backlog of disability claims awaiting rating to below 800,000 on Wednesday, according to an internal email obtained by Nextgov.

Allison Hickey, VA undersecretary for benefits, told staffers of the Veterans Benefits Administration in an email sent Wednesday morning that the milestone was just a few hundred claims away.

“As I looked at the morning report, I could feel the excitement growing,” she wrote. “We are 657 Veteran's claims away from reducing the inventory to a number we haven't seen in quite a while - a 7XX,XXXK number!  I know you can do it today.”

VA reported Monday that it had a total of 833,130 pending claims, with 547,922 or 65.9 percent backlogged for more than 125 days.

Meagan Lutz, a VA spokeswoman, said these top-line numbers include pending claims that do not require a rating – determination of how much compensation  a veteran will receive for a disability – such as adding a dependent.

The total number of claims awaiting rating stood at 801,931 on Monday, with 524,711 backlogged more than 125 days. This figure represented a drop of 6,143 claims awaiting rating compared to a week earlier, when VA reported an inventory of 808,074 claims and a decline of 5,364 claims awaiting a rating more than 125 days.

Last Thursday, VA said that in two months it processed 65,000 or 97 percent of disability claims backlogged more than two years thanks to a crash project kicked off on April 19 that gave priority to the oldest claims. In her email, Hickey urged VBA employees to finish up processing the remaining two-year-old claims.

The VA claims inventory topped 900,000 in March. Facing relentless criticism by Congress and veterans groups, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki imposed mandatory overtime on VBA claims examiners in May.

In her email, Hickey thanked the VBA staff for putting in extra hours. “Thank you for all you are doing -- especially as you do it in over time. I extend a specific thank you to those of you who are doing your own OT and then some more for others who can't,” Hickey wrote.

By Bob Brewin

June 26, 2013