VA Backlog at 400,000 Claims, Untouched for 4 Months

Image: VA Backlog at 400,000 Claims, Untouched for 4 Months

Tuesday, 22 Oct 2013 02:24 PM

By Lisa Furgison

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More than 400,000 claims from the nation's warriors have been left untouched for more than four months in the offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, it has been revealed.

And it's not even the fault of the government shutdown — the number actually went down during the 16 days that Washington stood nearly idle.

The latest figure, from last Friday, stands at 411,704, The Wall Street Journal reports. These are claims that were filed before June 15.

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On the last Friday before the shutdown, the number of backlogged claims stood at 421,973, so during the time Washington was on furlough, the numbers went down by more than 10,000.

GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, who sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said, "This drop is stunning in light of the administration's threats the backlog would increase as a result of a government shutdown."

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki had said that claims processors would lose ground during the enforced break. Employees had been working mandatory overtime shifts to clear the backlog. When the government closed up shop, claims were processed but hours were cut.

The VA has struggled with a backlog problem for years. New computer systems have enabled employees to clear claims faster, but the VA still fell short of its own processing goal this year. Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida believes this is the issue to focus on.

"Instead of debating whether or not VA's dire predictions regarding the shutdown’s impact came to fruition, I remain focused on a much more important question: Why is the department still falling short of its own backlog goals?" he said.

The agency had planned to process 1.27 million claims by the end of June, but only processed 1.17 million claims.

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