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Disabled veterans: surge seeks to break through claims backlog

We've been following the issue of disability benefits for veterans closely for months in this blog. In our last post of 2012, we discussed the delays many veterans were experiencing before their claims could be processed. At that time, the Veterans Administration (VA) pledged to work more closely with the Social Security Administration to expedite claims.

Nearly six months later, the VA is finally starting to step-up its efforts to clear the processing backlog. This is welcome news for disabled veterans in Michigan and across the nation.

This week, the VA announced that it is authorizing overtime for claims processors. The mission for these processors, located at 56 regional offices around the country, is to reduce the disability claim processing backlog.

To show the seriousness of the effort, the VA is even describing the effort as a "surge." That word, of course, came to national consciousness with the renewed deployment of troops in the Iraq war.

Just how large is the claims backlog that the surge is directed against? As of the beginning of this week, it was still 843,000. More than two-thirds of these claims have been pending for more than four months.

Fortunately, the VA has been exempted from the across-the-board federal budget cuts known as the sequester. And so the VA is in a position to initiate this additional effort to clear out the claims backlog.

From now under the end of the fiscal year, VA employees who are assigned to process disability claims will draw at least 20 hours of overtime a month. With more than 10,000 employees doing this, the overtime initiative should make significant headway in clearing out the backlog and ending intolerable delays for disability benefits.

Source: "VA announces overtime 'surge' to battle disability claims backlog," The Washington Post, Steve Vogel, 5-15-13

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