Monday, February 25, 2008

Buried under backlogs

Buried under backlogs
February 25, 2008
More than 400,000 veterans are awaiting decisions on disability claims they filed with the Veterans Affairs Department, and roughly one-quarter of those have waited more than half a year.
Social Security Administration staffs are grappling with more than 600,000 disability claims.
Regional service centers at the Homeland Security Department’s Citizenship and Immigration Services are buried under more than 1 million citizenship applications.
And the Food and Drug Administration is more than a decade from inspecting every foreign pharmaceutical plant it is obliged by law to inspect.
Poor planning by agency leaders and underfunding by Congress created these debilitating backlogs that may take years to resolve, according to federal officials, legislators and watchdog groups.
At the start of the Bush administration in 2001, VA had more than 400,000 pending claims for disability ratings, which determine a service-disabled veteran’s employability and disability benefits. The department made progress reducing that number: By 2003, the backlog was down to around 250,000.
But then the nation went to war.
“VA was kind of cruising right along with a certain volume of claims until the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Then the volume of claims increased,” said Belinda Finn, VA’s assistant inspector general for auditing. “We still had the same processes for handling a lower workload, and the system just hasn’t been able to handle the increase in claims.”
And so the backlog started creeping up. By 2008, VA once again has more than 400,000 pending claims for a disability rating. About 25 percent of those are officially considered backlogged, meaning they have been pending longer than six months.
“The number of claims that we receive each year has been going up pretty steadily,” said Michael Walcoff, VA’s associate deputy undersecretary for field operations. “In 2000, we got 578,000 claims, and last year got 838,000. That’s a pretty significant increase, and certainly some of that can be attributed to the soldiers coming back from [the wars].”
go here for the rest

It's a great article but he's only half right on the backlog of claims numbers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

VA claim backlog at 816,211 but IT cut back? WTF
Vets' groups urge IT budget boost for benefits processingBy Bob Brewin February 13, 2008 Veterans' services organizations have urged Congress to provide a sharp increase in the information technology budget of the agency that handles their compensation and pension claims.The fiscal 2009 IT budget request for the Veterans Benefits Administration is about 18 percent less than the fiscal 2008 proposal. The overall IT budget for the Veterans Affairs Department, VBA's parent agency, jumped 18 percent in President Bush's latest request.VBA's pending compensation and claims backlog stood at 816,211 as of January 2008, up 188,781 since 2004, said Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of the Disabled Veterans of America, during a Wednesday hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

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