VA reports backlog up for the first time in 5 weeks
Each week, IAVA's Research Director, Jacqueline Maffucci, PhD, reports on and analyzes the VA disability benefits backlog.
Tuesday, October 21 | 13:00
This week, the VA reported that the backlog has increased by over 2000 claims, and the number of total pending claims also increased by nearly 2000 claims. This is the third week that the number of total pending claims has increased and the first time in five weeks that the VA has reported an increase in the backlog. There are now 238,661 veterans who have been waiting more than 125 days for a disability compensation claim decision. Overall, there are 519,949 veterans waiting for a decision on a pending claim at the VA.
Given this net increase of pending claims over the last three weeks and the corresponding slow down in decreasing the backlogged claims, the percent by which the VA has reduced the backlog has taken a slide back, decreasing to slightly over 62%. With 48 weeks left until the end of FY 2015, the VA will have to reduce the backlog by more than 4,900 claims per week to meet the goal of eliminating the backlog by this deadline.
Earlier this month, the VA announced that it had processed from that 1.3 million veterans’ disability compensation claims in FY 2014. This is the highest in the VA’s history. This is an important milestone to acknowledge given that this was also the year the VA transitioned its system to an automated process. However, it’s also important to keep monitoring monthly progress on the backlog as the VA works to meet it FY 2015 goal.
The chart below shows the average monthly change in claims (both backlogged and total pending) from October 2013 to October 2014. This kind of long-term trend tracking is so important to ensuring that the VA continues to keep on pace to end the backlog by the end of FY 2015. As the chart demonstrates, there have been a few highly productive months early on this year, and over time the productivity has gradually decreased.
However, as long as the rate of change hovers at 5000 or more, the VA is still on track to meet its goal. As we can see, the numbers for this month are showing a slow down, resulting so far in an average increase in the number of claims processed this month.
As October finishes out, this might change. And in all honestly, there might be future months that make up for this slow down. It will be important to keep monitoring this to see whether it is just a blip in the data, or becomes a more consistent trend of lowered productivity.
To hear more about the veterans who have waited or continue to wait in the backlog, visit http://www.thewaitwecarry.org.
* Note: IAVA continues to track and report backlogged claims to include claims not counted in the VA’s Rating Bundle. IAVA does this because we believe that claims from all veterans and their families should be included in the goal to end the VA Backlog by 2015. For more on this, please see IAVA’s blog post from July 22, 2103, “Is the VA Moving the Goalpost?”