The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said it has trimmed the number of disability claims older than four months to under 100,000 from 611,000 claims in 2013.
The current backlog of 98,535 claims older than 125 days is the lowest since the agency started measuring the claims backlog in 2007, Allison Hickey, the VA’s undersecretary for benefits, wrote in a VA blog post.
The VA is also on track to complete nearly 1.4 million claims this fiscal year – exceeding 1 million claims for the fifth year in a row, setting a record. Hickey said veterans with a pending claim have been waiting, on average, 105 days for a claim decision, 177 days less than the March 2013 peak of 282 days.
“We streamlined our processes; we moved out of antiquated systems; we got away from thousands of tons of paper; we met you online so that you could access us wherever and whenever you needed; and many of you changed right along with us,” she wrote. “You’ve embraced new things like filing Fully Developed Claims and using standardized forms.”
The gains were also achieved through use of mandatory overtime for employees in the benefits division, which Hickey said officials plan to stop in September, according to an Associated Press report. Mandatory overtime has been in effect for nearly three years but “is not sustainable,” Hickey said.
The reduction in the backlog has been achieved without sacrificing quality, Hickey said. Claims-based quality has risen from 83 percent in 2011 to 91 percent today.