One of the most common complaint that I receive from Utah Veterans applying for VA disability compensation is that they have waited too long for a VA disability decision. Many veterans are simply afraid that they will have to wait a long time for VA disability. Since I also handle Social Security disability claims in addition to VA disability compensation I can compare the two agencies in terms of predictability on timing of disability decisions. Social Security has more predictability in terms of claims processing. Social Security can still take a long time in terms of getting a hearing, and many times a Veteran will receive their VA disability compensation in a much shorter time. However, what has become very clear is that if a Veteran needs to appeal their claim they can count on it taking a very long time–how long is usually unknown, but several years is really the best answer I can give. This has been the frustration of many Veterans, their disability lawyers, and many other Americans as well. The question becomes is anything being done, and if so what? The answer from VA top brass is yes we are going paperless and this will allegedly make a big difference in the next few years. Of course many are dubious as to the claims of future speediness in claims processing, but the jury is still out.
According to a gcn.com report at the end of 2012 18 of the 56 VA regional offices have gone paperless which includes the VA regional office in Salt Lake City. In 2013 we can expect the rest to also go paperless. The report claims that efficiency will be improved and decision errors will be reduced based on rules based calculators and drop down menus as well be able to view the files electronically. One problem that I see a lot with the Veterans that I help in Utah on VA disability is how to submit records to the VA. Will this new system for VA disability be able to accommodate this problem by allowing electronic submittal of new records to the VA and be able to confirm receipt of those records? This should be something accommodated for by the VA.
The website executivegov.com reports that the VA has processed in neighborhood of 1 million claims per year over the past 3 years–an impressive number. The goal by the end of 2015 is that all the claims would be processed within 125 days with an accuracy rate of 98%. It will be interesting to see what transpires in the next few years because as the VA transitions to this new system the waiting and rate of errors has been anecdotally quite high and so the claimed rate of improvement would be exponential.Veterans Backlog Update by Joel Ban