Boehner bashes VA for lack of progress on claims backlog

John Boehner

Rep. John Boehner wants to know why the VA's average claims processing time is growing longer when it should be decreasing.

The Veterans Affairs Department has had little success in clearing the staggering backlog of compensation claims at an Ohio office, despite launching a transformation effort last summer, according to House Speaker John Boehner.

In a Feb 21 letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the congressman called for action on the "alarmingly" high backlog of veterans’ compensation claims at the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Regional Office.

Despite a transformation plan put in place summer of 2012, the Cleveland office currently processes a claim in an average of 334 days -- well above VA’s goal of 125 days, Boehner wrote. Since the transformation initiative was launched at the Ohio office, the average processing time has lengthened by 56 days – or 20 percent.

But it's not just one office that is having trouble. According to Boehner, the national average for VA to process a claim is 272.5 days. And the national average has been rising, by nearly 18 percent since January 2012, when it was 231.5 days.

Those results "disappointed and disheartened" Boehner, who said his office is currently handling nearly 100 unresolved claims cases awaiting answers from the Cleveland VARO.

"From a veteran who has already been waiting more than a year to simply add her newborn daughter as a dependent, to a veteran who submitted his claim more than two years ago and has yet to receive an answer, the examples of systematic failures being reported by my constituents in the Eighth District and across Ohio are shameful," he said.

The House speaker also took issue with the lackluster results from VA’s senior leader to improve the benefit delivery system for veterans.

"In the four years you have served as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the benefit delivery system has not shown any noticeable improvement and America’s veterans have yet to receive the VA service they deserve," Boehner said. "Despite your transformation efforts, the compensation claims backlog remains alarmingly high and our veterans continue to have their benefit access stifled by a broken system."

In 2010, Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould announced VA had invested $138 million in a paperless system that would be launched in 2012. Two years later, Shinseki announced the national deployment of claims transformation initiatives to 12 regional offices to improve benefits delivery to veterans, families and their survivors.

"This is an important milestone in our transformation to achieve the goal we established in 2009 of processing all disability claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy level in 2015," Shinseki said at the time.

However, the paperless system has yet to be fully adopted and VA is falling short on meeting its promises to reduce the processing time, Boehner said. "The data clearly indicates that your stated goal of processing a claim in 125 days is not being met and it appears that this goal is more unattainable today than it was four years ago," he wrote. "VA stakeholders are asking extremely important questions and as someone who represents them, I believe they deserve nothing less than honest and direct answers."

In his letter, Boehner requested a status update and more information on VA’s plan to migrate to the paperless process. He also asked Shinseki how VA plans to cut the time veterans are waiting to have their claims reviewed and re-adjudicated, and the near- and long-term objectives of the entire transformation process.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Sun, Nov 17, 2013 Wayne,Cincinnati,OH

To the Processors and staff at The Cleveland ,OH (RO) Make yourself , and us (VETERANS) PROUD, Please Make the SYSTEM WORK FOR US ALL. I know you can.Have a Great Day and THANK YOU. Wayne (NAVY VETERAN)

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

I filed a claim 9 yrs. ago, and I rec'd a second Remand from BVA 02/05/2013. This Remand have been at the Cleveland RO since 02/12/2013, and I have not heard a word from the RO!! @##$%, What happen to the 125 days ??

Fri, May 24, 2013 Mike Dayton

All I know is that it is a very long process. I don't have any issue with VA employees. I know they are trying very hard to keep up. It would seem that the VA could just hire more people to process the claims, and that would solve the problem. Congress should mandate hiring more processors.

Thu, May 9, 2013 rigoberto

try to write a comment but system refuse to take, I was articulate and rude but how the heel we are going to fix the problem if they can struggle the vet but the vet can't say nothing.

Thu, May 9, 2013

Fifty months since I open my claim and was deny twice. My claim went to BVA Washington and returned back to St. Petersburg Regional Office on 1/2012 but my appeal start on 5/2010. BVA Remand to Regional office my claim, all C&P evaluations came on my favor from Dr. Opinions but Regional Office still insist to screw out sending my C file back and forward from one place to the other for additional information perhaps to jeopardize the opinions. Never believe in this system. This administration is all about immigration reform, Dream act Latinos and Mexico.

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