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Extra funds could help ease VA claims backlog


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Extra funds could help ease VA claims backlog

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Oct 22, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- More resources are on the way to help clear the backlog in veterans' disability claims.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced Tuesday that Congress has shuffled funding to provide the Department of Veterans Affairs with an additional $300 million to address the problem.

"These additional funds will do a number of things," Reid told reporters. "Of course, we want them to help reduce the backlog."

While the issues are nationwide, Action News has heard from vets across the valley who said they have waited months to receive their benefits.

"The turmoil of waiting is never ending," said veteran Al Christenson, who served in the Marine Corps.

Christenson said he has health complications from exposure to agent orange while serving in Vietnam. After battling the enemy overseas, he had to battle the VA over his disability claim. Christenson said he finally received his check from the Philadelphia office last week after waiting nearly two years for the claim to process.

"It was such a shock that it took a day or two to realize it," Christenson said.

He's not alone. Numbers from the VA's website show roughly 57 percent of compensation and pension claims are more than 125 days old.

Reid told reporters on a conference call the extra funding could make a difference.

"Take for example, the converting to digital. We have people there, at least more resources to do it. That's what this will allow," Reid said.

The money is also expected to help with job training and placement programs for military members returning to civilian life.

The regional office in Reno handles many claims from Nevada veterans. Reid tells Action News that it's too early to say exactly how Reno will benefit from the announcement since Congress just acted.

The Reno office said it's making progress. The facility said it's completed claims that are over two years old in September. The office said it's converted nearly half of its inventory to digital records - a move that's expected to improve efficiency. The next goal is to clear claims that are over one year old by the end of October.

Christenson said he doesn't believe the extra money will mean a quick fix to the nationwide problem.

"With our technology today, there's no reason that this stuff cannot be done a lot quicker than what it is," Christenson said.

The VA said claims processors are back to mandatory overtime through at least Nov. 16 now that the federal government has reopened.