VA reports drop in disability claims backlog

The Department of Veterans Affairs said its backlog of pending disability compensation claims has declined by 44 percent over the past year.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs said its backlog of pending disability compensation claims has declined by 44 percent over the past year.

According to VA, the backlog peaked at more than 611,000 pending claims in March 2013, and has since declined by about 44 percent to 344,000 claims. VA said that in the intervening period, the department also has improved the accuracy of disability claims decisions.

VA said that it also has cut 119 days from the average wait for a decision, compared to March 2013.

"Through a combination of transformation initiatives and the hard work of our employees, we are making significant progress toward our goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. "We still have more work to do, and no one is more committed than our Veterans Benefits Administration employees, over half of whom are veterans themselves."

The number of claims pending more than 125 days is at its lowest point since March 2011, VA said. According to the department, the backlog increased in 2011 in part because 150,000 previously decided claims of Vietnam War-era veterans had to be re-adjudicated in cases of Agent Orange exposure.

The reconsideration of those cases came in response to a court decision, as well as to the addition of a number of diseases and ailments to the list of conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure. During that period, VA said it also took in more than 100,000 new claims filed by Vietnam vets and survivors based on those additional conditions.

See more at: www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=121944.

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