FCW: VA benefits backlog spikes amid COVID pandemic

“The backlog of initial claims for benefits by veterans has been spiking in recent weeks, after holding steady amid the 100% telework posture of the Veterans Benefits Administration.”

“The backlog of claims for veterans’ benefits — those that have yet to be addressed for 125 days or longer – has crept up to over 100,000 according to data released Monday. VBA had been able to keep the backlog well below that number for months, in keeping with an overall Department of Veterans Affairs goal to lower the figure.”

“Early on, even under telework, the backlog numbers reflected the steady state of just over 70,000 claims that the agency had achieved. That steady state represented a leap forward at the agency before the pandemic, and the agency was also making advancements in handling appeals…”

“Under the 100% telework regime, backlogged claims increased slowly but steadily, before spiking in early May. As of May 16, the backlog number was 101,456. A week earlier, the backlog stood at 96,088. As recently as May 2, the figure was just over 80,000…”

“The VBA employees who rate veterans’ claims are already trained and equipped to telework, and some do so several days a week. The rating is done on a system called the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), a content management system that collects and organizes records pertinent to pension and disability claims made by veterans.”

“Jim Rihel, the president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 940, which represents VBA workers in Philadelphia, says that the VBA raters are working hard but are facing headwinds.”

“‘All in all, telework is working, but employees are killing themselves to get their work done in a system that’s stacked against them,’ he told FCW…” Read the full article here.

Source: VA benefits backlog spikes amid COVID pandemic – By Lia Russell, May 20, 2020. FCW.

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