Enyart: Backlog of veterans' disability claims starting to shrink

News-DemocratAugust 1, 2013 

The backlog of disability claims by disabled veterans is decreasing, according to U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials report that the backlog of nearly 900,000 veterans' disability claims is starting to shrink.

"This is positive news for our disabled veterans," Enyart said in a news release. "The VA needs to operate with a sense of urgency so our veterans are not losing their homes or cars while waiting for disability pay to come through."

Earlier this year Enyart introduced legislation, the Veterans Backlog Reductions Act, designed to help disabled veterans get their benefits faster. The bill calls for provisional benefits to be paid to veterans whose claims have not been processed in 125 days. He praised officials for instituting mandatory overtime for claims processors through the end of the fiscal year to reduce the nine-month backlog of disability claims applications.

Earlier this year, the average time to process a claim at the VA was 272 days, or approximately nine months, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. In many cases, the wait is sometimes more than a year.

More than 10,000 VA claims processors are working 20 hours' overtime a month this summer in order to reduce the backlog. As a result of these initiatives, the VA claims backlog has been reduced by 17 percent compared to highest point in March 2013, the agency said Thursday.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also announced Thursday that certain veterans filing new disability claims may be entitled to one year of retroactive payments by filing "fully developed claims" for benefits. By giving the VA the information from outside sources it needs up-front, the turnaround time for claims processing is significantly reduced.

The new benefit takes effect Aug. 6 for first-time filers.

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