Advocacy Issue Brief: Fixing VA’s Benefit Claims Processing System

The Situation

  • As of January 12, 2013, there were 903,789 claims for veterans’ disability compensation and pensions awaiting decisions by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), a 130% increase from the 518,108 claims pending four years earlier.
  • The average time it takes to process a claim is now more than 270 days; and almost 70% of all claims are have been waiting longer than VBA’s target goal of 125 days.
  • VBA’s accuracy rating measured for the 12-month period ending in November 2012, was just 86.3 percent, far below VA’s target of 98 percent.
  • VBA’s workforce has doubled over the past decade, but the number of veterans filing claims rose even faster, from 600,000 in 2000 to over 1.4 million in 2012, and the number and complexity of claim’s issues per veteran has also risen.

The Challenge

  • In 2011, VA Secretary Shinseki established an ambitious goal of zero claims pending more than 125 days, and all claims completed with 98 percent accuracy by 2015.
  • To meet the Secretary’s goal, VBA developed and implemented a new organizational model for its Regional Offices and is continuing to develop and roll out its new Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.
  • However, in order to achieve lasting success in eliminating the backlog, VBA must remain focused on creating a claims processing system focused on quality, accuracy, accountability and timeliness that is designed to decide each claim right the first time.

The Solution

  • DAV urges Congress to support VBA’s ongoing transformation of the benefits claims processing system, while providing aggressive oversight to ensure it is completed properly.
  • DAV urges Congress to ensure that sufficient funding is provided to VBA to finish developing and then fully deploy its new Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) as well as to support the complete digital conversion of all active paper claims files.
  • DAV urges Congress to develop legislation and support policies that supports the use of private medical evidence in rating decisions and expands the use of interim ratings for veterans who file complex and multi-issue disability compensation claims.