By: James Booth

Where you live may impact how long you wait for a response to your VA claim.  Last week the Veterans Benefits Blog attempted to tackle the question, why do VA claims take so long?  To summarize, a significant part of the problem is due to the fact that a majority of claims files are not electronic but remain on paper.  This problem is visually evident by the unorganized stacks of paper files at nearly every regional office across the country.

While backlog at the VA is systemic, it may come as a surprise that the wait time for a veteran’s claim is not universal across the country.  For example, the average veteran will spend 403 days to have the government respond to his or her claim if they file in Waco, Texas, while a similar veteran in South Dakota will only wait 129 days.  A study by the Center for Investigative Reporting indicates that there is a positive correlation between wait times at various VA regional offices and the veteran population within those particular regions.

What can be learned from all this?  The seemingly obvious, yet most unattainable answer is that a veteran with the opportunity or the ability to choose where they submit their claim should attempt to file in rural regions of the country – North and South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Idaho, and other regions throughout the Midwest.  For most veterans, however, this is simply unrealistic for multiple, unrelated reasons.  These include, but are not limited to, financial considerations, family commitments, professional obligations, a simple cost-benefit analysis, and the exercise of ordinary common sense.

Ultimately, one would hope that this study is most valuable to the VA as it attempts to solve the backlog problem.  Statistical data proves what we have known for some time – the system is overloaded, overworked and under resourced, made all the more obvious by the simple fact that the problem is worse in more populated areas.  The VA should learn from the regional offices in the more rural areas when crafting their solutions to the backlog problem, paying specific attention to how resource are allocated proportionally to the number of veterans they serve.

Finally, a veteran may use this study in an effort to manage their own expectations and a concerned citizen could use it to raise awareness, increase accountability, and apply pressure on elected officials in constituencies that are particularly slow to improve.  To this end, the Center for Investigative Reporting created a map depicting all regional offices  across the United States with valuable information unique to each region.  This information includes the number of outstanding claims by jurisdiction and the average wait time each veteran can expect to endure there.  The map also tracks the progress of each regional office in their attempt to speed up the claims process.  For information on your region visit http://www.baycitizen.org/veterans/interactive/map-disabled-vets-stuck-backlog-limbo/.

For additional information on the study as reported by Aaron Glantz visit http://www.veteranstoday.com/2012/09/04/for-disabled-vets-awaiting-benefits-location-matters/.

Comments are closed.