The Claims Backlog
Veteran Disability Lawyer
American soldiers injured while on duty have an expectation that they will be taken care of when they return home. An expectation that the VA fails to live up to.
Business Week reported on Hector Esparza, an Iraq veteran who suffered brain injuries when his Humvee was struck with a rocket. He now suffers from debilitating headaches and PTSD which prevent him from working. Despite this, the VA classified him as only 60% disabled. Hector has been trying to qualify for full disability since 2009, but was recently informed by VA that it could take at least another six months before his case is even reviewed. Unfortunately, Hector Esparza’s case is all too common.
The VA is failing to keep up with the volume of disability cases filed after a decade of fighting overseas. The VA received 1.3 million veteran disability claims in 2011 – an increase of 48% from 2008. Currently, 905,000 disability claims are awaiting action, 65% of which will take longer than four months to resolve. Despite a large budget and over 14,000 employees reviewing these claims, the VA backlog continues to grow.
The Agency is attempting to speed up its claims processing. They are currently testing electronic record keeping at 16 of the 56 regional offices. Surprisingly, the VA still primarily uses inefficient paper records. So every piece of paper has to be manually placed in a veterans file. The opportunity for error is enormous.
However, what is really lacking is political pressure to hold the VA accountable. VA’s budget has increased, but no requirement for effectiveness.
Until this mismanagement and lack of oversight in the VA is corrected, Hector Esparza and nearly a million veterans like him will be forced to wait months or even years to have their disability claims reviewed. This is hardly an appropriate way to thank these veterans for their service.
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