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VA disability benefits backlog hover at 900,000

How long will I have to wait for my VA disability claim?

It’s not unusual for many Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants to apply for Veteran Disability benefits as well as their SSDI benefits. What we are hearing recently from the Veterans Affairs Department is that VA disability claims processing currently has a back log of over 900,000 claims, despite the fact that the department has increased their staffing in recent years.

One of the most common questions we get on our disability forum is how long will it take to get my SSDI payments. It seems veterans also have the same question for the VA administration when they are waiting for VA disability benefits. According to Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., in 1997 the “average VA field employee” processed 135 VA disability claims annually and in 2011, that number had dropped to 73 claims per year today. So even though field offices have greater staff the number of VA disability claims processed each year has substantially declined.

What? The productivity of government workers is under fire? Am I the only one who is not surprised? Visit any licensing department in the United States or U.S. Post Office and you’ll be frustrated by the snail-like movements and unfocused efforts of the workers.

According to Miller they are finding that although the Veterans Benefits Administration now employs three times as many employees as it did in 1997, they are finding, “The more people VA hires to process claims, the worse the department’s productivity is.” The VA responded by declaring the VA may have more workers and they may have an increased back log of claims but their accuracy rating has improved from the late 90s. Well, I guess that’s something.

What does this mean for your VA Disability Case?

Unfortunately, while you may wait weeks, months or years for your SSDI case to be processed you may also be waiting months for a VA disability claim. The Veteran reports “it has a backlog of 895,838 claims, 70 percent of which (629,585) have been in limbo for more than 125 days.”

What does the VA suggest to eliminate processing time? It’s what I tell my SSA clients. Never wait for the VA to do anything for you. Don’t call the VA and wait for them to send you an VA disability application. Use the joint VA/Defense Department eBenefits portal to file your VA disability claims. Also, make sure you understand how the VA determines disability.

It’s not all bad news. The VA has been working to improve their process by setting up expedited processing for less complicated claims and moving toward electronic records transmission. According to the VA, they are also continuing to implement the paperless Veterans Benefits Management System in regional offices in hopes of eliminating the backlog by 2015.

Although many are calling on the VA to hold their workers accountable, even with vigorous oversight of the VA disability process, it is unlikely workers will lose their jobs due to poor performance. Apparently death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security within the Federal Government.

So forget about trying to make anyone work faster, harder or longer, especially if there’s no threat they could be terminated. It’s time to grab your cup of coffee, sit back and relax, because it’s going to be a long wait.
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