Baltimore Exemplifies VA's Problems Nationwide

Monday, 04 Feb 2013 02:04 PM

By Melanie Gray

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Veterans in Maryland wait longer to have their claims processed and have a one in four chance of having their cases mismanaged, according to statistics that rank the Baltimore regional Veterans Affairs office as the worst in the nation.

According to The Washington Post, the state's nearly 500,000 veterans are filing disability claims that take on average 429 days to clear, virtually tying up the Oakland, Calif., regional office. The national average for claims to be addressed is 267 days.

The VA's goal is 70 days, but nationally the VA system is facing a backlog of more than 900,000 cases, the result, The Post says, of a "sharp increase in filing by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well as by older generations."

The situation in Baltimore exemplifies two multifaceted problems — the spike in claims and poor management — that the nation's other 55 regional offices nationwide are dealing with as well.

President Barack Obama has promised his administration will eliminate the agency's backlog of more than 900,000 claims by 2015, The Post reported. He also has promised to reduce claim waiting time to no more than 125 days and to improve the VA accuracy rate to 98 percent.

The Post noted that when Obama first took office four years ago, the number of pending claims totaled 391,000. That figure is now 886,000.

Last month, the VA announced it has started the transition to its new Veterans Benefits Management System, an electronic method of processing claims that Baltimore VA officials plan to have in place later this year.

Michael Scheibel, director of the Baltimore office, told The Post the new system should help make things "a lot better" than they are now.

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