Subcommittee Examines VA Appeals Backlog
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing examining the growing backlog of appeals pending with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). In recent years, VA regional offices have shifted resources away from appeals and towards claims, which has led to lengthy appeals timeframes. The subcommittee is concerned that a large increase in the adjudication of claims, as assumed by VA’s efforts to eliminate the backlog by 2015, will lead to a huge surge in the number of pending appeals with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
“I routinely hear from veterans in Southern Nevada and around the country who are waiting far too long to receive a decision on their appeals,” said subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Dina Titus (NV-01) in her prepared remarks. “Improving the speed and efficiency of both the claims process and the appeals system will be a small step to recognize these men and women for their sacrifices.”
The amount of claims waiting to be heard by the BVA is currently over 45,000 and estimated to increase to approximately 102,000 by FY 2017. The average length of an appeal completed in FY 2012 was 903 days.
“I’m pleased that the overall backlog of claims has been reduced, but I’m concerned that an increased focus on claims has led to a decreased focus on veterans’ appeals,” said Titus. “I strongly urge the VA to take the necessary steps to ensure that the Veterans Benefits Management System is also functional for the needs of the BVA as quickly as possible. It’s counterproductive to send electronic files to the BVA in a format that will result in further delay for our veterans. The intent of the transformation from this subcommittee’s perspective is not to rob Peter to pay Paul. So let’s not resolve the backlog at the VBA only to create a new one of appeals.”