One of the most unpopular agencies in within the federal government right now is the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has been criticized for its unacceptable wait times for veterans seeking medical care. The agency has also been sharply rebuked for its mountainous backlog of veterans’ benefits claims, including disability claims.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in the wake of the VA medical care scandal. The next VA secretary will be forced to deal with not only this problem, but also with the claims backlog, which Shinseki had originally hailed as a success of his time as head of the agency.
In recent years, the VA has been aggressively working to reduce its backlog of claims for things including injuries sustained during service. But although claims have been cut sharply, this doesn’t mean the claimants have had their problems resolved. In fact, there has been a 60 percent increase in the number of outstanding appeals of claims that have been denied. This slow-moving appeals process is arguably much more frustrating for veterans.
The VA backlog is troublesome for a number of reasons, including the fact that many veterans cannot afford to wait for the benefits that they were promised and that they have earned. But when it comes to disability claims specifically, the backlog can make it impossible for a veteran to also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
The Social Security Administration has implemented a program in which veterans with a 100 percent disability rating can have their SSDI applications fast-tracked. But a significant backlog within the VA could mean that a fully disabled veteran could be waiting indefinitely to receive both VA benefits and SSDI benefits.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Jump in Appeals Dog the VA’s Progress on Disability Claims,” Ben Kesling, July 7, 2014