Lisa Cornwell of the Associated Press reports:
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that he wants a coherent plan and more specifics from the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs on what is being done to reduce the growing backlog of veterans’ disability claims.
Boehner on Tuesday sent his second letter in a little over a month to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. The speaker wasn’t satisfied with Shinseki’s response to his first letter and wants him to “quickly provide specific information” on the VA’s efforts to address the backlog and to improve accuracy in rating claims.
With thousands of veterans waiting on claims decisions and an estimated 1 million service members expected to become veterans in the next five years, “the time for the VA to fix this problem is now,” Boehner said in a statement Tuesday.
The VA says 4.7 million claims must be adjudicated in the next 32 months to meet Shinseki’s goals, and Boehner says he is concerned that appropriate short-term benchmarks haven’t been set for reaching the long-term goals.
The speaker’s latest letter follows one he sent in February asking Shinseki to explain what is being done to fix a broken system. Boehner had asked for information including timing for completing the VA’s conversion of old paper files to digital ones and what the VA has done to reduce the time veterans are waiting to have claims reviewed and re-adjudicated and to improve accuracy.
The VA did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.
But Shinseki wrote in his March 27 response to Boehner’s first letter that he shares the speaker’s “impatience” with the VA’s “current shortfall in delivering timely benefits decisions.”
“We currently are not meeting the standards of service we desire, and the growing inventory of claims and lengthy delays that many of our veterans are experiencing are unacceptable,” Shinseki wrote.
About 600,000 claims for illness or injury received in active military service have been pending more than 125 days, and that number has nearly quadrupled in recent years. Part of that spike starting in 2010 is attributed to Shinseki making it easier for veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War to get benefits. (more…)