VA's Disability Claims Backlog Drops Sharply

The number of pending disability compensation claims peaked at more than 611,000 in March 2013, but the Department of Veterans Affairs has chopped it approximately 44 percent to 344,000 claims.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced big progress April 1 in the Department of Veterans Affairs' backlog of pending disability compensation claims – that is, claims pending more than 125 days. Those peaked at more than 611,000 in March 2013, but the VA reduced it to 344,000, an improvement of about 44 percent, Shinseki announced April 1.

He said the decisions being made on veterans' disability claims are more accurate and, on average, veterans are waiting 119 days less for a decision than they were at this time last year.

"No veteran should have to wait to receive earned benefits. Through a combination of transformation initiatives and the hard work of our employees, we are making significant progress toward our goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015," Shinseki said. "We still have more work to do, and no one is more committed than our Veterans Benefits Administration employees, over half of whom are veterans themselves."

The backlog rose partly because in response to a court decision, VA readjudicated 150,000 previously decided cases involving exposure to the Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange. Shinseki also added ischemic heart disease, certain leukemias, and Parkinson's disease to the list of conditions presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange, and the VA has processed more than 100,000 new claims for those conditions from Vietnam veterans and survivors.

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