VA Claims Backlog May Be Larger Than Numbers Suggest

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a new report detailing the results of its investigation into the claims backlog at the agency. The backlog constitutes “the number of ratings cases that took more than 125 days to complete,” according to Leo Shane III at Military Times.

Shane notes, “The VA claims backlog was a major scandal during President Barack Obama’s administration, as frustrations grew over the slow pace of VA’s ability to handle an ever-growing number of disability claims.”

The OIG set out to look into the goal established in 2010 “by the then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs to eliminate the claims backlog in 2015.” The report notes that while the goal of eliminating the backlog was not realized, the agency was successful in reducing the backlog from a peak of almost 612,000 cases in 2013 to roughly 72,000 by September 2016.

The decrease is a sizable one. However, the backlog has hovered near that number ever since, last week sitting at more than 86,000 cases, and the OIG’s new report suggests the numbers might not reflect the whole story.

The report released Monday claims that VA officials “significantly understated the number of claims awaiting decisions for over 125 days,” with the reported backlog only covering roughly 79 percent of the actual number.

The report states that VA staff “completed about 63,600 other end-products that required rating decisions that took over 125 days to complete but that VBA did not count as part of the backlog.”

The OIG recommends that the Under Secretary for Benefits at the VA “consider revising which claims are included in VBA’s reported disability claims backlog and provide a clear definition to all stakeholders” and that the Under Secretary “implement a plan to provide consistent oversight and training of Claims Assistants through national performance and training plans.”

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