The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) underwent a hearing conducted by John Hall, Chair of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, to ensure the department was improving efforts to resolve veterans benefit claims.
The VA acknowledged that improvements had occurred in the claims process in conjunction with the increasing quality of the VBA’s training model. The VA also ensured that pending claims would begin to decrease as training continues to evolve. “It is indisputable that VBA’s staff and the training they receive have increased due to Congressional action,” said Chairman Hall, “however additional efforts are needed to ensure that veterans, their families, and survivors receive their just benefits in a timely and accurate manner.”
Since 2007, the VBA has been increasing efforts to improve the benefits claims process, and Congress has distributed over $750 million to the VA to ensure the VBA has the funding to do so. Over 10,000 VBA claims processors have been hired, and new legislation was passed in 2008 which required a better training program and appropriate resources to be made to VBA claims personnel.
However, in spite of the improvements, more effort is needed to increase the VBA’s efficiency. In 2009, twenty percent of all disability claims processed by the VBA were done so incorrectly, and nearly 200,000 claims were delayed for four or more months. “The VA must do a better job ensuring that its claims processors receive the right kind of training to decide veterans’ cases correctly the first time,” stated Chairman Hall. “At this point in time, it is failing to meet that standard.”
To ensure the success of the VBA training program, Congress delegated the Government Accountability Office with the task of examining the program. The GAO confirmed that improvements had been made, but stated that there were still several areas where efforts needed to be focused.
Since the hearing, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has set higher standards for the VBA demanding that the VBA claims backlog be wiped clean by 2015, and that the claims process will not exceed 125 days.
Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Bob Filner, was delighted with the VBA’s improved efforts as well as the new goals set by Secretary Shinseki. “If we continue to concentrate on these efforts,” stated Chairman Filner, “I am confident that we can fix this broken claims system so that our veterans, their families, and survivors receive the 21st Century, world-class benefits and services they deserve.”
Photo thanks to American Progress Action under creative common license on Flickr.