Disabled veterans living in the Bay Area, seen at the Oakland Regional Office, wait an average of 313 days for the Dept of Veterans Affairs to adjudicate their claims. Of those claims, at least 1 in 4 needed a redo, according to Bay Citizen reporter Aaron Glatz.
According to Glatz, “of the nearly 60 VA offices around the country, the Oakland office is the slowest. Representative Jackie Speire, of San Mateo, said the problems are so severe in Oakland that all new claims are sent to VA offices in Lincoln, Nebraska and Muskogee, Oklahoma for processing.
The California veterans affected wait almost 2 times longer than the national average of 180 days. Currently, the VA is working on converting the old paper files into electronic documents. The VA claims this will serve as the silver bullet for the claims backlog.
In a recent statement, VA said it is “taking steps” to meet VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s goal of processing disability claims in less than 125 days with 98 percent accuracy.
After Glantz published his story in the New York Times, the VA announced plans to revamp processes at 12 regional offices around the country. The problematic Oakland Regional Office was not one of those on the list.
Tom Murphy, head of VA’s Disability Compensation program, stated Oakland was excluded because the delays were actually caused by “quality issues.” When this happens, the claims must all be re-examined prior to a determination.
Basically, disability claims need to be adjudicated twice, which explains the delay. However, the answer begs the question, why have the systemic failures have been allowed to persist? The director of the Oakland Regional Office is expected to answer this question and others shortly.
The Oakland Regional Office director, Douglass Blagg, is scheduled to appear in front of a California congressional delegation to answer questions about the delay. The meeting is scheduled for May 21, from 1pm to 4pm. It will be held at the War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave., Room 207, in San Francisco.