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In mid-June FP Situation Report reported there are 851,229 vets waiting on claims from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and nearly 65 percent of them, or 565,327, are considered backlogged because they have been awaiting a decision for more than 125 days.

The average wait time for veterans for a processed claim is now about 330 days, according to the VA, which has pledged more transparency in its bid to reduce the backlog by 2015.

"The encouraging news is that since March, when the issue rose to national prominence, the backlog has decreased by 64,258 claims (a 10.2% decrease in total backlogged claims), and the percentage of backlogged claims has decreased by 3.3%," Situation Report is told by Zach Goldberg of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "However, in order to eliminate the backlog by 2015, the VA must reduce the backlog by 4,672 claims per week, a reduction the VA has met 10 times since June of 2012."

The IAVA's Paul Rieckhoff continues to push for President Barack Obama, who pledged to fix the VA system when he first ran for office, to speak directly to the current issue of the backlog and then take more steps toward action.

Numbers as of late June 2013 per VA.gov

The 2013 Monday Morning Workload Reports, part of VA's Transparency Program, are weekly compilations of performance measures for the processing of Disability, Pension and Education benefits, as reported by Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) regional offices. The Compensation Inventory includes all claims that have been received by VA regional offices and are pending a disability rating decision. 

Since 2009, the backlog of compensation claims has grown. While VA completed a record-breaking 1 million claims per year in fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012, the number of claims received continues to exceed the number processed. 

Characteristics of the pending Compensation Inventory

As of Dec 31, 2012, claims from Veterans of the following eras make up VA’s inventory (total number of claims) and backlog (claims pending for more than 125 days):

  • Post-9/11 (Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts) claims make up 21% of the total inventory and 22% of the backlog
  • Gulf War (definition) claims make up 23% of the total inventory and 21% of the backlog
  • Peacetime (period between end of Vietnam and Gulf War) claims make up 11% of the total inventory and 11% of the backlog
  • Vietnam claims make up 37% of the total inventory and 38% of the backlog
  • Korean War claims make 4% of the total inventory and 4% of the backlog
  • World War II claims make up 3% of the total inventory and 3% of the backlog
  • Other era claims make up 1% of the total inventory and 1% of the backlog

Original vs. Supplemental Claims

VA’s current Inventory of compensation claims contains both "original" claims—those submitted by Veterans of all eras who are claiming disability compensation from VA for the first time, and “supplemental” claims—those submitted by Veterans of all eras who have previously filed for disability compensation with VA. Below is a breakout of the original and supplemental claims in the current VA inventory:

  • 60% of pending claims are supplemental, 40% are original.
  • 77% of Veterans filing supplemental claims are receiving some level of monetary benefit from VA.
  • 11% of Veterans filing supplemental claims already have a 100% disability rating (receive $2800 or more per month) or qualify for Individual Unemployability (compensated at the 100% disabled rate).
  • 40% of Veterans filing supplemental claims are already rated at 50% disability or higher.
  • 43% of supplemental claims are from Vietnam-era Veterans; 19% are from Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

There are 3.9 million Veterans of all eras who are currently in receipt of disability benefits from VA. Of those, 10% have a supplemental claim in the pending compensation inventory. In fiscal year 2012, VA delivered $54 billion in compensation and pension benefits.

To learn more, read the Department of Veterans Affairs Strategic Plan (PDF) to eliminate the Compensation claims backlog or visit VA.gov

Sources: Foreign Policy and Department of Veterans Affairs

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