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Measure could help clear backlog in veteran disability claims

Measure could help clear backlog in veteran disability claims

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jun 5, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Help could be on the way to clear a backlog of disability claims for military veterans.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, sponsored a measure that would shift funding to regional offices within the Department of Veterans Affairs that are experiencing the worst backlogs. The move comes after the VA announced mandatory overtime for claims processors in offices across the country last month, which could cost up to $44 million.

"This amendment says take that $44 million and allocate it for personnel in those 15 offices that all have over a year of processing time," Amodei said in a speech before the House of Representatives on June 4.

Amodei said the amendment would not change the funding amount; he said the measure would redirect the overtime money to the offices that need it the most, instead of allocating funding to offices that may not need extra help. Amodei's office said the VA's regional office in Reno is number two in the nation in long wait times for claims decisions, citing numbers from the VA.

"Let's put the staffing where those offices are that are in need of it the most," Amodei said in his speech.

The backlog is nothing new. Numerous veterans who turned to Action News in the last few weeks said they are left waiting and wondering about their claims.

"I did what I was supposed to do, as they told me," said Ron Torres, who retired from the U.S. Air Force.

Torres said he spent several decades in the service working as a military police officer. He filed a claim in California in October, 2012, for numerous medical issues that arose from his service. Paperwork shows the VA responded and advised Torres he needed an exam for the claim to move forward.

About six months later, Torres moved to Las Vegas. When we called to reschedule the exam in his new home state, Torres said the Nevada office told him they did not have his paperwork. Torres said he may have to refile the claim.

"It's probably not their fault entirely due to the fact - just the shear amount of work that they have to do," said Torres.

Earlier this week, the Reno regional office told Action News they are in the process of switching from paper to digital records and hope to have claims that are at least two years old cleared by July 1.

Action News reached out to the Reno office on Wednesday to get their thoughts on Rep. Amodei's amendment but have not heard back.

The amendment is tied to a military construction and veterans affairs bill that has passed the house but needs approval from the Senate.