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“Veterans need a VA that is as fit for duty as the veterans it serves,” Senator Mikulski says
February 19, 2013
BALTIMORE, Md. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today at a press conference with U.S. Secretary for Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki called for an action and leadership plan to reduce the backlog of veterans' disability claims. Senator Mikulski and Secretary Shinseki held the press conference following a meeting at the VA's Baltimore Regional Office organized to discuss Secretary Shinseki's new plan to reduce the backlog. Prior to their meeting, Senator Mikulski and Secretary Shinseki toured the Baltimore Regional Office to meet with employees and hear first-hand their experiences and concerns with the claims intake and processing process.
Specifically, Senator Mikulski called for a roundtable with leaders from the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs as well as members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to find solutions that will improve communication and coordination between the agencies to improve record sharing, speed the claims process and make it clear that results are expected.
"We've all read the stories about the backlog -- the unacceptably long wait times, lost paper work and high rates of errors," Senator Mikulski said. "Nobody thinks this is acceptable. Our veterans have already fought on the front lines. They should not have to fight their own government for benefits they've earned and deserve when they return home. We are all committed to fixing this. Nearly half of VA employees are veterans. They are hardworking, but need organizational and leadership support. That's why I'm calling for a leadership plan and an action plan."
Secretary Shinseki announced his plan to reduce the backlog in Baltimore and across the nation. More information is available here.
The VA's Baltimore Regional office is the worst performing regional office in the nation, both for length of time to process a claim and accuracy. Nationwide, 903,000 claims are pending with the VA with 587,352 of these claims being more than 125 days old. The average wait time to have a claim completed is 273 days, or more than nine months. This is in part due to a 63 percent increase in claims between 2005 and 2013. Additionally, claims are often more complex due to more complex injuries.
The problems are even worse at the VA's Baltimore Regional Office where the average wait time is 332 days, or 11 months. In Baltimore, 84 percent, or 16,767, of pending claims are older than 125 days. The Baltimore Office also makes more errors with an error rate of 26.2 percent compared to 13.7 percent nationally.