Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) November 27, 2018 – A recent government watchdog investigation revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is dealing with a larger veterans’ benefits claims backlog than the agency previously reported.
The VA Inspector General’s Office reviewed cases from the first half of 2016 and released a report on September 10 that indicated department officials “significantly understated” the number of pending claims. Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) staff left out around 63,600 overdue cases from records during that period. They also incorrectly recorded an additional 10,000 cases.
“The VA has been criticized in recent years for being slow to make decisions on claims,” said Florida veterans lawyer David W. Magann. “While the agency has taken steps to reduce the backlog, such as hiring more staff and updating their processing systems, delays in approving cases cause difficulties for veterans who rely on these crucial benefits. It is important for officials to be transparent with their numbers.”
Investigators estimated the reported backlog to be representative of only approximately 79 percent of actual pending cases. The remainder of cases were ignored, misclassified, mistakenly excluded or only acknowledged as overdue months after the files had finally been processed. The omissions created a misrepresentation of the actual number of delayed claims.
The VA defines backlogged cases as those that take over 125 days to resolve. The report found the average wait time for a basic pending disability claim remains at 90 days, but more complex cases can take 150 days or more to complete. According to VA records, the backlog has fluctuated between 70,000 and 100,000 cases each week over the past three years, with a reported 86,000 backlogged cases in early September.
Investigators attributed the backlog problems to “ineffective oversight and training.” They concluded that the VA is underestimating the number of cases because of unclear guidelines about which claims should be considered part of the backlog. The inspector general recommended the VA set clear parameters regarding which claims should be included. It also suggested revamping training and oversight programs to ensure they are consistent and effective.
Agency officials said the standards for handling the claims backlog have remained mostly the same since 2009. In response to the watchdog report, VA Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence promised to implement a new training program for employees and to clarify which claims should be counted in the backlog. The agency is considering other potential updates by year end.
David W. Magann, P.A.
156 W. Robertson St.
Brandon, FL 33511
Call: (813) 657-9175
4012 Gunn Highway #165
Tampa, Florida 33618
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