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VA calls for “hiring surge” to tackle backlog

The VA’s backlog of appeals is continuing to quickly grow again.  Veterans wait an average of 5 years for appeals processing, but at the current rate that wait time may jump to 8.5 years warns the VA.  The VA’s goal is to resolve claims within one year by 2021, but it needs more staff.  The VA says a “hiring surge” is needed to deal with the backlog.  

VA Secretary, David Shulkin, calls the current VA appeals process “broken” and has made fixing it one of his top 10 priorities.  He recently released a memo laying out exemptions to the federal hiring freeze, including allowing the hiring of claims processors.  The VA says it plans to continue hiring to the extent it can.  In recent years it has assigned additional staff to work on the appeals backlog, but it says large-scale reform from Congress, including additional staffing, is needed.

In 2017 the VA set aside additional funds to increase full-time staff by 36%. But the VA said it couldn’t fully commit to the hiring plan because it is “highly dependent on VA’s annual budget appropriation.”  President Trump’s budget plan includes a 6% increase in VA funding, but it doesn’t specify that the additional funds will be used to increase staffing.  

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