Senator Hagan: New Development In VA Claims Backlog

5:51 PM, Jun 6, 2013   |    comments
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Winston-Salem, NC -- The secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has finally responded to Senator Kay Hagan's request for action in reducing a backlog of claims.

Senator Hagan says she wrote a letter to Secretary Eric Shinseki in March after she toured the regional benefits office in Winston-Salem.

The office has a backlog of more than 30,000 claims, some on file and unprocessed for two or more years, according to the regional director. 

Hagan says Shinseki has responded to her request, assuring her that he'll send Allison Hickey, Under Secretary to the regional office in the next few months to review the situation and offer recommendations on how to clear the backlog.

"I really want a detailed plan of analysis on how this is going to shape up and how we're going to get this problem corrected," Hagan said Thursday.

Based on WFMY News 2's reporting, the VA has known about the backlog for at least four years.

That was when the department decided to measure the backlog using a 125-day model. That means any claim that isn't processed within 125 days would be considered backlogged.

In the last year, according to the regional director, three top officials have visited the office to review the situation.

Several of congressional leaders from the Triad, like Hagan, and/or their liaisons have also toured the regional office and have been briefed on the backlog.

Thursday, WFMY asked Senator Hagan why she is hailing the secretary's decision to send Hickey, for another review of the backlog, progress.

"I think the fact that she's in charge of the benefits at the VA certainly should say that they are taking this seriously; they are sending the top person to address this situation,' Hagan answered.

Cheryl Rawls, the regional director agrees.

"I think anytime you have senior leaders visit from that level to your local regional office, it continues to build the morale, it continues to give sight to what's happening and it continues to make that pathway a lot easier," she said.

According to Rawls, even though it may not look like it from the outside, the Winston-Salem office is making lot of progress.

She says of the more than 30,000 backlogged claims, the office had 1,400 that were two or more years old. 

But, in the last two months, they've processed and reduced that to 150.

She also adds that they project the backlog should be completely cleared by 2015.

"There's been a lot of activity. I don't think the organization was deficient in taking action at all," Rawls said.

As far as the visit by the under secretary, Hagan says she does not know when that will happen but it should be in the next few months.

Hagan says 66 of her colleagues in the senate have addressed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to personally intervene to help clear the backlog.



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