Sanders Welcomes Progress on VA Backlog

WASHINGTON, April 1– Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed significant progress by the Department of Veterans Affairs in reducing a disability claims backlog.

The VA announced today that its current backlog of claims pending more than 125 days is at its lowest point in three years. The backlog was reduced from 611,000 one year ago to 344,000 claims pending today, a 44 percent reduction. The VA also said the accuracy of the decisions on disability claims has improved.

“The VA has assured me that it is on track to eliminate by the end of next year what everyone agrees have been unacceptable delays in processing claims,” Sanders said. “I welcome the progress that has been made and I intend to continue working with the VA to make sure that goal is achieved.”

Legislation proposed by Sanders would require quarterly reports to Congress on efforts to eliminate a backlog by the end of 2015. VA would have to detail both the projected and actual number of claims received, pending, completed and on appeal.

Sanders said that the backlog built up because of the VA’s slow transition from paper to a digital claims system and because of an influx of cases after the VA extended benefits to more Vietnam veterans exposed Agent Orange.

Secretary Eric Shinseki deserves credit for modernizing the VA record-keeping system that he inherited and for setting the goal for the department to eliminate the claims backlog, the chairman added.