WASHINGTON - Starting in October, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will hire and train new staff to ensure Veterans’ claims are adjudicated quickly and help reduce an expected increase in the backlog of claims pending more than 125 days.
VA will hire and train 2,000 new employees to assist in claims processing. The VA will also Leverage authority to transfer CARES funding to the Veterans Benefits Administration and utilize the American Rescue Plan to fund overtime to ensure timely claims processing.
As of October 11, there were more than 204,000 backlog claims in an inventory of 603,000 total claims. VA identified more than 70,000 claims to review for additional entitlement stemming from the presumptive relationship between Agent Orange and Parkinsonism, bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. Many of these will enter the backlog in October which is projected to reach 260,000 pending claims.
Several factors have contributed to the recent backlog. Beginning in March 2020, operational changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an untimely delay of the Federal Records Centers’ retrieval of documents and suspended Compensation and Pension examinations. VA workload has also increased as a result of the aforementioned recent decisions and actions, including a court order mandating the review of previously denied Veterans on the basis of qualifying service in the 12 nautical miles surrounding Vietnam.
The backlog has decreased by more than 14,000 claims since the end of August 2021.