The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

May 21, 2013
More hope to cut backlog of VA disability claims?

There's a flurry of activity on VA disability claims -- and, just maybe, some hope that the disgracefully long waits endured by veterans will be reduced.

Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced a partnership with the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans to help vets submit complete files, including private and federal treatment records, when they first file a claim. The VA says that can cut processing time in half.

The VA's goal is that by 2015, claims will be processed within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy. It's nowhere close to meeting that goal. About 570,000 current claims, nearly two-thirds of all claims, have been pending longer than that.

Last week, it announced that more than 10,000 workers at claims offices will be required to work at least 20 hours of overtime a month through September to cut the backlog.

Also Tuesday, Congressman Jerry McNerney, a Stockton Democrat, said that the House Appropriations Committee has agreed to his recommendation that any VA office with an average wait time of 200 days or more be required to report quarterly to Congress on its progress. The office in Oakland, which serves veterans in Northern California and has a branch in Sacramento, has one of the worst records.

Wednesday, a group of House Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, plans to unveil a package of bills to cut the backlog.

The Bee's editorial board has repeatedly called on VA officials to follow through on their promises to fix the backlog of claims, many from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These new actions could be part of that solution.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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