The White House, Congress and the Department of Justice laid out to-do lists to address problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as legislation to provide veterans with resources for education, economic opportunities, health care and to end homelessness.
Five Department of Veterans Affairs employees were in the hot seat this week as they answered questions on an alleged scandal involving senior officials using an agency program for their personal and financial benefit.
The director of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Allison Hickey, is resigning, after four years as undersecretary with the department.
Taxpayers pay for two Veterans Affairs Departments, says Federal Drive host Tom Temin. There’s the good VA, which reduces its backlog of disability claims. The bad VA continues to struggle with management problems.
Veterans Benefits Administration Under Secretary Allison Hickey told Federal Drive with Tom Temin that roughly 98,000 claims that are older than 125 days have been reduced to about 91,000. a sub-100,000 case milestone reached in late August.
After a years-long effort, the Veterans Affairs Department has managed to whittle down its backlog of disability claims by 90 percent. It now has fewer than 100,000 disability claims, meaning those more than 125 days since filing. That’s down from the record 611,000 claims it still held in 2013. Allison Hickey is VA’s undersecretary for benefits. Hickey tells the Federal Drive with Tom Temin more about how VA made this progress.
The Veterans Affairs Department has broken its own records in processing disability and pension claims. The agency made its way through 1.3 million claims in fiscal 2014. That surpasses 2013’s record by 150,000. One result is that VA’s disability claims backlog fell to its lowest number in four years. It’s down 60 percent from the peak of March 2013. These numbers put VA on track to meet its 2015 goals. Allison Hickey is the undersecretary for benefits at the VA. She joined Tom Temin on the Federal Drive to explain how the agency was able to plow through so many cases.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is set to introduce new, standardized disability claims forms to help streamline the claims process. The goal is to make it easier for veterans and their survivors to clearly state their claims and also provide necessary documentation.
A report by the Veterans Affairs’ Inspector General’s office found that a regional supervisor stockpiled about 8,000 veteran-related documents, and that paperwork with sensitive personal information was poorly handled.
The Veterans Affairs Department says its claims backlog is far below its peak of three years ago. VA credits its progress to several changes under the Veterans Benefits Management System or VBMS. Federal News Radio’s Executive Editor Jason Miller joined Tom Temin and Emily Kopp on the Federal Drive and described how VA is reducing the claims backlog. Read Jason’s related article.