Obama administration’s backlog of veteran benefit claims increased over holidays

Patrick Howley | Political Reporter

The Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) saw its backlog of unprocessed veteran benefit claims increase at the end of the year, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller.

In response the VA promised TheDC that it will re-institute mandatory overtime for department employees by the end of January.

Though VA promised Congress to cut its backlog and even recently hired many new staffers to address the problem, the department continues to leave hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting for benefits. The backlog again exceeded 400,000 severely delayed claims at the beginning of the new year.

As of December 21, 2013, the VA backlog stood at 388,719 unprocessed claims that had been pending for more than 125 days, according to VA. As of January 4, 2013, the backlog stood at 405,938 unprocessed claims pending more than 125 days. That’s an increase of 17,219 severely delayed benefit claims during the holiday season alone.

As of January 4, VA was overseeing 685,686 pending claims, 59.2 percent of which were delayed by more than 125 days.

“Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will be re-instituting the mandatory overtime program for claims processors near the end of this month. I don’t have details yet, like an exact date, but should be getting a bit more on that soon,” VA spokesman Randy Noller told TheDC.

“The end of mandatory overtime, federal holidays, adverse weather closures, and a focus on completing the most complex one-year old claims have contributed to slower production in recent weeks,” according to a VA statement on its December production level provided to TheDC.

VA projected that it would reduce its percentage of backlogged claims this past fiscal year to 40 percent, according to the department’s fiscal year 2014 budget submission, previously obtained by TheDC. However, as September, and with it the fiscal year 2013, came to a close, the department’s percentage of backlogged claims still stood at more than 58 percent.

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