Today, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) held a hearing entitled, "Breaking Through the Backlog: Evaluating the Effectiveness of the New State Strike Force Team." With the disability claims backlog over 850,000 pending claims, the Subcommittee has been in the process of reviewing alternate models in order to assist VA in alleviating this continuing problem.
"Frustrated veterans want to know why it takes so long to process their claim. Frustrated lawmakers want to know why the backlog keeps increasing. And frustrated VA employees want everyone to know that the folks on the frontlines are doing the best they can to try to keep up with an increasing amount of claims," stated Rep. Jon Runyan, Chairman of DAMA.
Representative from the Texas Veterans Commission testified before the Subcommittee providing an overview of their statewide program, "State Strike Force Team," which aims to process disability claims at Texas Regional Offices in a timelier manner than VA. The "State Strike Force Team" was created to assisted veterans whose claims are stuck in the backlog.
"As of Monday, September 17, members of the State Strike Force Teams have reviewed 2,525 case files of backlogged claims, identifying and executing all required additional [materials]," stated James Richman of the Texas Veterans Commission of the operation of State Strike Force Teams to date. "They have already delivered 852 claims to VA, fully developed and ready to rate."
Nationally, VA faces a difficult task due to a backlog that continues to increase by the day.
"In Texas, the total pending caseload has more than doubled while the backlog has more than quadrupled from 2010 to present. Presently, the real world average for getting a decision on a VA claim is 18 to 24 months," said Richman.
"Eight claims counselors will be located at both the Houston and Waco Regional Offices to help process claims. There will also be "Fully Developed Claims' Teams located throughout the state to improve access and assist veterans in filing fully developed claims," said Runyan. "By examining this process today, we are hoping that this State Strike Force Team will serve as a model to other states and perhaps even lead to the creation of a similar Federal Strike Force Team."