On Wednesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s disability assistance panel passed legislation endorsing an independent review of the VA claims backlog, which the VA has reduced to 745,000 as of Monday, July 22nd. The move is intended to determine the reasons why the backlog exists and what can be done to fix it. While the explicit goal for processing new claims for VA disability benefits is 125 days, the average is 243 days. Some regional offices are worse than others. The St. Petersburg, Florida, regional office has been singled out as particularly troubled. The measure requires an independent analysis by a multiagency task force.
One idea that is being discussed is allowing the VA to give partial disability compensation payments to veterans who file complicated claims when some issues are more easily resolved. The average number of claims filed by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 8.5. Each claim represents a separate disability, and come are complex – like claims based on illnesses associated with exposure to burn pits. Another idea that is being discussed is expanding the use of private physicians to conduct compensation and pension exams. This kind of expansion could be a very powerful tool in the hands of veterans who could schedule an appointment with their private general practitioner and develop evidence more quickly and perhaps better than what the VA could provide under the Veterans Claims Assistance Act.