In its fiscal year 2013 budget request, the Veterans Administration (VA) says that about 60% of claims for benefits filed by veterans take more than 125 days to process. Many veterans say it often actually takes much longer than 125 days. Maybe the $2.164 billion the VA is requesting for improved benefits processing will help.
According to the VA, the $2.164 billion is $145 million more than it is spending on claims processing now and will be used to speed-up the process by increasing staff, improving its business practices and applying information technology enhancements.
High on the list of those technology enhancements will be an expansion of the VA's eBenefits service which allows servicemembers, veterans and their families to apply for benefits online.
The VA hopes that by the end of 2013, that 60% rate of claims taking more than 125 days to process can be reduced to less than 40 percent.
Why so slow? The main reason it takes the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) so long to process benefit claims is that there are simply so many of them. During fiscal year 2013, the VBA expects to receive about 1,250,000 claims for veterans disability benefits alone, about 4% more than 1.2 million expected this fiscal year.
According to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, claims for disability benefits from veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan average 8.5 different disabilities per veteran, nearly double the rate claimed by veterans of earlier wars. Since each disability claimed by each veteran requires the VBA to consider evidence, such as medical or military personnel records, the increased workload for VBA employees results in slower processing times.
Of course, disability compensation is just one of many benefits for which veterans might apply. A report from the VA's Office of Inspector General shows that during fiscal year 2008, approximately 3.2 million claimants received veteran's compensation benefits totaling about $36 billion.
The VA's total budget request for fiscal year 2013 is $140.3 billion, an increase of $2.7 billion or about 4.5% over 2012. The 2013 VA budget request includes $64 billion in discretionary funds, mostly for medical care, and $76 billion for mandatory funds, mostly for disability compensation and pensions.
"As we turn the page on a decade of war, we are poised at an historic moment for our Nation's armed forces," VA Secretary Shinseki said. "The President has charged VA to keep faith with those who served when they rejoin civilian life."