The backlog of Veterans Affairs disability claims, which has gone up by 2,000 percent while the agency’s budget has increased by 40 percent over the past four years, has pushed the Department of Veterans Affairs to mandate overtime for claims processors in its regional offices across the country.
According to a recent letter by Reps. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., the number of veterans waiting for overdue disability claims is now at 600,000, with the average wait for first-time filings at 317 to 327 days.
Just imagine for a moment what message this sends to those young men and women who are considering the military as an option – moderate pay, long hours, and an absolute fight for what benefits you may have earned once you get out. Not the best recruiting message.
Ted Daywalt, president of Vetjobs, wrote, “The VA called the overtime plan “a surge” that will specifically target high-priority claims of homeless veterans, those with financial hardships, the terminally ill, former prisoners of war, Medal of Honor recipients and vets filing Fully Developed Claims – those with all military medical and personnel records and private medical records.”
Under the directive, some 10,000 disability claims processors will work a minimum of 20 hours of overtime each month through the end of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, according to officials.
On a good note, JBLM and the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs are being proactive and are in the initial stages of testing a process that is designed to reduce the “gap” time and expedite the filing of fully developed claims.
Bottom line: “Mission above Self” will still be an attractive option for some. But with the pool of eligible candidates for service shrinking, it is vital we get the post-transition experience right. Kudos to our state for being on the tip of the spear.
— By Michael Schindler
About the author: Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.