WASHINGTON, DC (February 3, 2014) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America today released a major report on the VA disability claims backlog, including an examination of its causes, the steps the VA has taken to implement system improvements and recommended steps the government still must take to get the backlog to zero and continue to handle new claims. The Red Tape Report is the first comprehensive report on the backlog, which has been a critical issue for the veterans community. Over the last decade, the number of disability compensation claims filed ballooned and the VA struggled to keep up. In March 2013, the backlog peaked with over 600,000 claims over 125 days. Since then, the VA has implemented a number of initiatives to bring the backlog down. Yet, after a surge of progress, in recent months progress has stalled, and the backlog has hovered around 400,000 since November.
A copy of the Red Tape Report can be found at http://iava.org/redtapereport.
“In the State of the Union address, President Obama re-affirmed the VA disability claims backlog as a national priority,” said Jacqueline Maffucci, Ph.D., Research Director, IAVA, and author of the Red Tape Report. “The VA has made progress since March to reform the system and bring the numbers down, but 400,000 veterans are still waiting and much work remains left to be done. It is not just about bringing the backlog to zero, but keeping it there. The Red Tape Report is vital to understanding how the system left so many disabled veterans waiting for so long – and ensuring that it won’t happen again.”
The United States has made a long-standing commitment to its veterans to compensate them for injuries and illnesses sustained as a result of their service through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation system. However, as the Report lays out, the government was not prepared for the volume of veterans claims it received.
To accelerate progress to reduce the backlog and to address long-standing issues, IAVA includes a comprehensive series of steps for the government to implement, including:
· Standardizing VA claims forms, as the variance of forms slows down processing.
· Creating a truly interoperable system between DoD and VA, which still does not exist.
· Incentivizing, to raters, quality in addition to quantity, helping to reduce accuracy errors that help create an appeals backlog and more importantly, lead to distrust of the system.
“The goal to end the VA backlog by 2015 is a critical milestone that must be met. But there will still be veterans filing disability claims beyond 2015. There continues to be thousands waiting who are not even part of the backlog, including the more than 265,000 veterans waiting on appeals or the thousands of wounded ill and injured waiting in the integrated disability evaluation system. The government also needs to be looking ahead beyond 2015 and must focus on the needs of the entire population for decades to come,” Maffucci added.
Last year, IAVA launched a national campaign to keep the backlog in the national spotlight to ensure that leading officials take the necessary steps to bring the backlog to an end and to support veterans stuck in the system. IAVA also launched The Wait We Carry, an interactive online tool that shines a spotlight on the struggles of veterans and their families. Created with support from the Knight Foundation, thewaitwecarry.org features veterans in the backlog and their wait times.
Note to media: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.