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End the Backlog Part 1: The Problem

Everywhere you look today you can see information on the VA Backlog. Not all of that information is accurate. In order to better educate our readers, our clients, and the public as a whole, we are starting a two part series on the backlog. Part 1 will look at the problem. Part 2 will examine the plan the VA has implemented to dissolve the backlog. News organizations simply report about the backlog, we deal with it every day.

Part 1, the problem. I first want to applaud the VA for taking action and admitting there is a problem with the system as a whole. It is easy to place blame solely on the VA for this issue, but there are so many factors contributing, that signaling one entity would be unfair. The VA, in a move to educate everyone about the backlog, has released their plan. Like any government action, it has a name that sounds grander than it is: VA Strategic Plan to Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog. The “Plan,” as we call it, mentions several contributing factors to the backlog.

The first thing the VA mentions is the amount of claims processed vs. the number of new claims coming into the VA. Here are their exact words:

VBA completed a record-breaking 1M claims per year in fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Yet the number of claims received continues to exceed the number processed. In 2010 VBA received 1.2M claims. In 2011, VBA received another 1.3M claims, including claims from Veterans made eligible for benefits as a result of the Secretary’s decision to add three new presumptive conditions for Veterans exposed to Agent Orange. In 2012, VBA received 1.08M claims. Over the last three years, the claims backlog has grown from 180K to 594K claims as of the end of December 2012.

The part where they mention the Secretary’s decision to add three new presumptive conditions to the list is very important. We refer to this as the “Nehmer Laws.” Back in 2011, when this blog was fresh and new, we wrote about the Nehmer Laws. The three new conditions, Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease, and B-cell leukemia’s, made for a lot of new claims. Back then we were experiencing the effect of all of these new claims in the firm. We witnessed this backlog grow slowly first hand. We had an influx of new clients from the Vietnam era, and we filed a lot of new claims. The good news is, the Nehmer laws are over. That’s not to say that a Vietnam Veteran can’t still file for these claims, but rather that the review of all old claims has been completed. The VA went back through all of the previous claims in which Veterans had been denied, and reviewed their files to see if they could now be awarded.

The plan goes on to mention two other main areas that have impacted the backlog, increased access to information and demand. Under increased access they mention the following:

1. Increased use of technology and social media by Veterans, families, and survivors to self-inform about available benefits and resources

2. Improved access to benefits through the joint VA and DoD Pre-Discharge programs

3. Additional presumptive decisions resulting in more claims for exposure-related disabilities

4. Extensive and successful use of VA outreach programs encouraging more Veterans to submit claims

Under increased demand the following reasons are listed as components:

 

1. Ten years of war with increased survival rates, resulting in more claims

2. Post-conflict downsizing of the military

3. Impact of a difficult economy

4. Growth in the complexity of claims decisions as of result of the increase in the average number of medical conditions for which each claimant files

 

This backlog is just awful. We hate dealing with it, and I am sure most of the employees of the VA, a lot of which are Veterans, hate that it’s happening too. It’s going to be around for a while; the plan has a goal of 2015, so it will be a long wait still. Our next blog, Part II will examine the plan the VA has put in place to end the backlog.

 

If you are frustrated with this process, and would like to learn more about what our firm can do for you, give us a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. Fill out this form, and we can give you a call at a time that is best for you.

 

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