Shinseki, VA Fixed the Backlog?

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Eric Shinseki Backlog

In an announcement reminiscent of our “victory” in Iraq some years ago, VA announced it has finally gained the upper hand against the backlog. Despite reports that VA merely moved claims from the backlog into the appeals pile by unfairly deciding claims, VA now claims its own victory.

Here is the press release that just came across my desk minutes ago:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE            

April 1, 2014

 

Disability Claims Backlog Reduced by 44 Percent
since Peaking One Year Ago

Lowest level since Agent Orange cases added in 2011

WASHINGTON – One year after the backlog of pending disability compensation claims peaked at over 611,000 in March 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reduced that number by approximately 44 percent to 344,000 claims – a reduction of more than 267,000 – while at the same time improving the accuracy of the decisions being made on Veterans’ disability claims.  Additionally, on average, Veterans are waiting 119 days less for a decision than they were at this time last year.

“No Veteran should have to wait to receive earned benefits.  Through a combination of transformation initiatives and the hard work of our employees, we are making significant progress toward our goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. “We still have more work to do, and no one is more committed than our Veterans Benefits Administration employees, over half of whom are Veterans themselves.”

The current backlog, defined as claims pending more than 125 days, is at its lowest point since March 2011, when the backlog spiked in part because of the need to readjudicate 150,000 previously decided cases involving exposure to the Vietnam-era defoliant, Agent Orange.  The readjudication of these claims was mandated under the Nehmer court decision and followed the Secretary’s decision to add ischemic heart disease, certain leukemias, and Parkinson’s disease to the list of conditions presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange. During this same time period, VA also received and processed over 100,000 new claims for these three conditions from Vietnam Veterans and survivors newly eligible for VA benefits as a result of this decision.

“We knew taking care of this ‘unfinished business’ for Veterans of previous wars would initially drive up the number of claims in our system.  But it was the right thing to do,” said Secretary Shinseki.

Since establishing the goal in 2010 of processing all disability claims within 125 days at a 98-percent accuracy level, VA developed and is implementing a plan that transforms the decades-old, manual paper claim approach into a state-of-the-art electronic process that leverages digital data transfer and automated calculators to reduce processing time and input errors.

VA has also increased the productivity of its claims processing workforce through enhanced training, streamlined business processes and other initiatives such as mandating overtime and prioritizing the oldest claims, allowing VA’s 56 regional benefits offices to exceed monthly production records four times in fiscal year 2013.

At the same time, the accuracy of rating decisions continues to improve. VA’s national “claim-level” accuracy rate, determined by dividing the total number of cases that are error-free by the total number of cases reviewed, is currently 91 percent – an eight-percentage-point improvement since 2011.  When measuring the accuracy of rating individual medical conditions inside each claim, the three-month accuracy level is 96.5 percent.  VA’s accuracy measures are statistically valid and the process has been independently verified by the Institute for Defense Analyses.

VA claims processors continue to prioritize disability claims for homeless Veterans, those experiencing extreme financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims (FDC).  Filing an electronic FDC is the quickest way for a Veteran to receive a decision on their compensation claim (http://www.benefits.va.gov/fdc/).

Regardless of the status of their compensation claims, Veterans who have served in combat since Nov. 11, 1998, are eligible for five years of free medical care from VA for any illness associated with their service.

Veterans can learn more about disability and other Veterans benefits on the joint Department of Defense/VA web portal eBenefits at www.ebenefits.va.gov.

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15 Comments

  1. At least the released it on April Fool’s Day. The government or general public may be fooled, but the 100s of 1000s of veterans waiting on VA decisions are not. The VA has used loop holes, paper shredders and incorrect denials to cut into the backlog. The VA has changed how backlog claims are counted to produce better numbers. The VA has systematically moved claims from backlogged to denials with appeals to further reduce the backlog. Eric Shinseki should resign, but not before firing a large number of VA bureaucrats more interested in amassing political clout than serving our military veterans. Patients are literally dying waiting for appointments, disease outbreaks in VA hospitals are killing veterans while VA staff continues to obtain performance bonuses.

    The VA has stated that FOIA requests supersede the medical privacy of veterans, but believe FOIA requests about soldiers that died under VA care should be rejected. VA administrators should lose any potential bonus opportunities any time a preventable death happens under their watch.

    The VA should reimburse legal fees associated with successful appeals and pay interest on the amounts of money compensated. Veterans should be allowed paid legal assistance prior to submitting their initial claim. Veterans killed by the VA should be treated exactly like battlefield deaths with additional benefits going to their surviving family. It’s time the United States government holds up their end of the bargain for our veterans that have already upheld theirs.

    • I am with you on that Brother. I have been fighting The VA since 95. I finally Got Legal Help,and in the last 3 months I got the “Sorry for the Delay” crappy response. So I will wait and see,I’ve already waited damn near 20 yrs already.

  2. shinseki, Our superhero?

    It’s my opinion, NOT!!! He is a blow hole in the “Cesspool” we call the VA.

    Lets see how well my claim is going;

    On March 17th I received a letter from the BVA stating that I was correct in my assumptions that the VA originally denied my claim on Speculation and BS. On a letter dated March 14th the judge ruled Service connection for my claim, basically stating “my evidence was better then their No Evidence”.

    So how would the average person (any company, sense of dignity or with any common sense) would understand that they were wrong in there decision and it’s my opinion at this point in the game they should contact the other party (In this case it is a Vet that has waited patiently for 4 and 1/2 years for a well needed decision) to resolve the rest of the claim just to move for the Vet and the VA.

    NOPE, So what i would do (Sarcastically) I would hold on to it in DC for two weeks before shipping it back to the regional office that messed up on the decision originally so the regional office, who is probably pretty well upset they lost the decision to the Vet. So they can make the Final decision on what % of the disability. Gee I can only imagine how long this is going to take and far off they will be with the % of disability. And basically make the Vet wait longer and probably have to appeal.

    Yep Mr. shinseki, You are doing such a great job, i think you should give yourself a pay raise. Thank you for being the head of a group that is supposed to be taking care of the Heroes that have given us the freedoms we enjoy. And for the congressional and senators of this great nation, Thank You for letting us, the Veterans of this great nation wait for the Care they deserve. And while you are at it, please give Billions of more of our dollars (That we don’t have) to another third world nation that we the people don’t really care about.

    Thank you Mr. Krause, for doing what you are doing. Especially letting us show our frustration on your blog.

    And for the rest of you having to read this, I am sorry for what this country is putting you through in this not so fun waiting game. Continue fighting for what is rightfully yours. Even though my claim may finally be coming to an end, my fight for change with the VA is just starting to get ramped up.

    Remember this is my opinion, before they take that away.

    • Let us remember that it is not the citizen or rest of the country that does not care for veterans it is our two faced representatives that vote to turn their backs on veterans. If Americans took their reps by the hand and showed them how to vote they would still get it wrong.

  3. The VA is an insurance company pretending to be a federal agency. Nothing at the VA will ever change until bonuses are stopped for VA employees and anyone involved with the VA. This is especially true sense the sole purpose of the VA bonus system is to reward VA staff and contractors for denying VA claims especially if the veteran has earned the benefit in question. Corruption always ends by those who are in charge destroying each other and themselves. The VA will eventually go the way of the dinosaur, when taxpayers figure out it is a giant employment program that wastes countless billion of taxpayer dollars on paying employees to do nothing but collect a paycheck while harming and cheating veterans. The VA will be taken over by private corporations who only get paid if they provide service and approve claims in a satisfactory way according to how veterans rate their performance, as is done with any private corporation. A private hospital, and all private corporations, can only succeed and stay in business when they distribute earned benefits instead of finding sneaky and corrupt ways of cheating those who have earned them.

  4. STEPHEN, YOU ARE DOING WELL, IT TOOK ME 35 YEARS. I HAD SOME SET BACKS(INCARSERATED 3 TIMES), BUT I STAYED AT IT TO GET 50%.

    • I here you brother. I ret GMCM after25 yrs sevice. PBR Vietnam 69-71. In the Marine Barracks explosion in 83,I was with a Beachmaster Unit when I was blown into a concussion,woke up 3 days later in an Army Hospital in Frankfort. For 12 yrs I served with what they thought was a severe Knee sprain.Turned out I had a Torn ACL. Med Discharged,and The VA gave me 20%,my upgrade has been inthe Mix since 95. Finally Got Legal Help as I said so I will see how this goes. Absolutely criminal waht they do. It’s a damn shame.Be Well.

  5. I’ve been waiting for OVER 3 years for my appeal to be adjudicated. That’s how the VA is getting around the “backlog” – they’re not counting appeals that have been gathering dust.

    Since the time I submitted my first appeal, Feb. 2011 (for a PTSD increase and TDIU, I have had a couple of C&P exams in Feb of this year (2014). One of the C&P exams looked at GERD (initially denied service connection in 2007 and again in 2011 – but now all of a sudden, there is a “direct service connection” according to the latest C&P exam notes. SO . . . does this mean I will receive a favorable decision for my appeal on GERD? Only time will tell.

    I have appeals pending, 02/2011, 08/2011, and 09/2013. The VARO is deciding ALL my appeals at the same time. At the same time, the VARO is deciding my dependency issue. Seems they decided last Aug., that I was single and have been since late Sep. 2011,, even though I had submitted paperwork showing I had re-married in Dec. 2011 (seems THAT paperwork got lost)…so I’m owed back pay for dependency and SMC, regardless of a favorable decision or not.

    Thomas Cole MAC(SW), USN(retired)

  6. NOT A SINGLE QUOTE WAS MADE STATING AS EMPIRICAL FACT THE ACTUAL NUMBER OF PENDING CASES WHEN THIS POLICY BEGAN, AND HOW MANY OF THOSE PENDING CLAIMS WERE GRANTED (and to what percentage) OR FORCED TO GO ON APPEAL TO THE BVA and/or CAVC?

    Ask yourself why would they omit these key facts?
    Because they need to hide the real math for the 44% reduction claim. Big PR..
    VA’s omission of these key facts speaks its own condemnation. This is transparency?

    These people at VA Central Office are shameless, habitual Liars. In fact, this entire official press release never once recites hard numbers for base line measurements of what they say is actually true. Just trust us, and read this stuff, and believe us. Have we all heard that a lot in the past from these same official VACO sources?

    This same super-inefficient, incompetent, reckless, criminal fraud outfit, was transformed almost overnight, VA claims, into a super-accurate, compassionate benefit award process, literally in the matter of just a few months. And the only figure we have is the boastful 91% accuracy rate (based on someone’s definitions of course).

    Incidentally, did you know that, the “provisional award” policy invoked by VBA under secretary Allison Hickey in April 2013 went off the rails just 6 months later? I found this out from the St. Pete, FL VARO staff this past January. No more up front payments.

    Their claim then? We have caught up so many cases, we thought it good to stop paying disabled war veterans (and peacetime) up front since we got so good so fast. Hmm.

    Now we have to go through the burdensome FOIA process just to get a peek at the real figures and the governmental accounting & definitions used by the VACO corporate executives. And don’t forget, they keep referring to veterans and their families as “shareholders” in this corporate enterprise call the Dept. of Veteran Affairs.

    And the affairs for veterans from this type of classic VA legerdemain are truckloads and shiploads of LIES, once again. A whopping 98% & 91% “sustained” success rate?!?!

    The corporations wholesale costs are, as always, taxpayer-funded.
    Trouble is, the corporate VA executives rarely give “profit-sharing” to us shareholders.

  7. Pure BS. The only thing the VA wants to cure is people asking pointed questions. i will believe the VA, when they begin to occasionally tell the truth.

  8. What’s all this bad talk from you huhu okates? I do great job. I nui. I go now to Luau with nani wahine to celebrate me. I bought nui house in Washington DC. paid for by all taxpayors. ALOHA

  9. The VA is acting as if the backlog problem was more of a recent event due to Agent Orange cases “suddenly dropped in their laps”, and we all know the truth in that there was a backlog BEFORE these wars on terrorism and *because* of these recent wars and plethora of severely injured physically/psychologically Veterans, the backlog became a flood upon the VA and unfortunately a *CASH COW* for VA System Employee and Management–all at the expense to those that served to preserve our very freedoms and benefit the WORLD in fighting this cancerous terrorism in the world.

    The events yesterday at again, Ft. Hood, unfortunately shed an ugly light on the disservice the VA Health System in all its failures. PTSD is yet again brought to forefront because while the military was actually treating that service member FOR PTSD, they yet were to DETEMINE *IF* he actually HAD PTSD! Total fail! I am no way condoning the horrific actions he took rather, just stating obvious truth that the VA needs to stop trying to cut corners by carefully NOT diagnosing such conditions in order to save $$ in providing proper care and *understanding* of PTSD and many other medical/mental conditions from the ravages of wars they send us to fight for them.
    Will be very interested to read how the VA Health System and Military Health System uses slick methods to convince the tax payers they are actually making improvements. As it stands, Ft. Hood supposedly made improvements since this happened same location in 2009 by an Army Psychiatrist.
    When will the VA finally realize that Depression and Anxiety *ARE* the basic underlying *symptoms* of PTSD????
    Yeah, I am rather pissed from this PR article and events of yesterday! Keep fighting the good fight! Never give-up! This is still a great Nation, even if the VA does suck!

  10. I am submitting a FDC for back, neck, and shoulder pain and PTSD. I’ve had shoulder surgery, but I have not been treated for the PTSD. Do I need to see a doctor to evaluate my conditions beforehand or should I file and see if the VA requests exams? I am in the Philippines and seeing a doctor is not easy, and I don’t have money for expensive tests. I am also waiting for my DD 214. If I add the DD 214 and doctors evaluations after filing, will this cause the claim status to change from FDC to regular status, and thereby delay processing?

  11. I am submitting a FDC for back, neck, and shoulder pain and PTSD. I’ve had shoulder surgery, but I have not been treated for the PTSD. Do I need to see a doctor to evaluate my conditions beforehand or should I file and see if the VA requests exams? I am in the Philippines and seeing a doctor is not easy, and I don’t have money for expensive tests. I am also waiting for my DD 214. If I add the DD 214 and doctors evaluations after filing, will this cause the claim status to change from FDC to regular status, and thereby delay processing?

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