House VA chairman: Agency fell short of claims processing goal

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) says the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which handles veterans’ disability claims, processed 1,169,085 in fiscal 2013 — nearly 100,000 less than the agency’s goal. 

“Even though VA has chipped away at the backlog over the last few months, the department still fell nearly 100,000 claims short of its fiscal year 2013 processing goal,” Miller said in a statement. 

“Congress has provided VA with everything it has asked for to reduce the backlog, so why is the department not delivering the results its leaders promised?”

For fiscal 2013, Congress appropriated $1.59 billion for VBA to reduce its claims backlog — an 8.5 percent increase from fiscal 2012. 

The VA has set up and is still developing an online filing system through which veterans can submit their claims. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki says the program would eliminate the backlog by 2015. 

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In a statement provided to The Hill Wednesday, the VA says it’s completed 1.17 million claims for fiscal 2013 — an all-time high, it says. The three previous fiscal years, the agency has processed 1 million claims per year. 

The 16-day government shutdown also caused a delay for the VBA. Claims processors could not work overtime: an important period that has helped officials reduce the backlog so far. 

The shutdown, however, didn’t cripple their efforts entirely. 

“The hard work of VBA employees kept the backlog from increasing significantly during the government shutdown,” the VA said. “The backlog on Oct. 16 was 417,560, remaining relatively flat since the beginning of the government shutdown on Oct. 1, when the backlog was 418,472.”

Since March, the VA says it’s reduced the backlog by nearly 31 percent. 

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