By Jaclyn Petruzzelli

 At the end of 2012, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) announced that its disability claims backlog had surpassed the 900,000 mark, nearly 25,000 backlogged claims more than there had been at the beginning of 2012. Claimants, who wait an average of 262 days for a claim to be processed, are obviously frustrated, as is the VA. With more veterans (1) returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, (2) recognizing medical conditions resulting from exposure to Agent Orange or living conditions during the Gulf War, and (3) responding to increased outreach efforts, the number of claims filed continues to outpace the Department’s ability to process them. The VA calls the number of backlogged claims “unacceptable,” and has vowed to fix the problem by 2015. But how?

 The Texas Veterans Commission has addressed the growing backlog problem by hosting “Beating the VA Backlog” events. These events give veterans the opportunity to sit down with counselors who are able to assist the veterans in submitting information necessary for a claim to be processed. Thus far, the teams charged with running these events have reviewed more than 10,000 claims. Veterans Service Organizations in different regions of the country have likewise been making localized efforts to ameliorate the backlog.

In an effort to address the issue nationwide, the VA recently announced it would be implementing the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) in all 56 regional offices. VBMS is an electronic claims processing system that is not only expected to make the process of filing claims easier for the veteran and more efficient for the VA, but also will include automated tools that are expected to result in more consistent rating decisions. The VA is confident that the implementation of this system will allow the Department to reach its goal of eliminating the backlog problems by 2015.

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