GAO: VA Disability Benefits: Actions Needed to Better Manage Appeals Workload Risks, Performance, and Information Technology

Why GAO Did This Study

“In fiscal year 2020, VBA paid about $88.5 billion in disability compensation benefits to over 5 million veterans injured in service to our country. Prior to 2018, veterans who appealed decisions on their initial claims for benefits often experienced long waits for resolution of their appeals—up to 7 years on average. These long waits are one reason GAO designated VA’s disability workloads as a high risk issue.”

“The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 made changes to improve VA’s appeals process. The act required VA to submit to Congress and GAO a plan for implementing a new appeals process (which VA submitted in November 2017) and periodic progress reports. The act also included a provision for GAO to assess VA’s original plan.”

“In March 2018, GAO found that VA could help ensure successful implementation of appeals reform by addressing gaps in planning and made several recommendations, with which VA agreed.”

“This testimony examines the extent to which VA (1) manages workloads and associated risks for processing appeals, (2) monitors and assesses performance, and (3) plans for further development of information technology.”

“For this statement, GAO reviewed its prior reports on disability appeals; VA’s progress reports to Congress; and information VA provided for GAO’s ongoing monitoring of this high-risk issue and about steps VA has taken to implement GAO’s prior recommendations.’

What GAO Found

“In March 2018, GAO made recommendations to address gaps in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans for reform of its appeals process for disability compensation claims. This reform was intended to offer veterans who are dissatisfied with VA’s initial decision on their claim more timely options to appeal.”

“Since then, VA has implemented new options for appeals in February 2019, reduced the backlog of preexisting appeals from 425,445 in fiscal year 2019 to 174,688 in fiscal year 2020, and addressed aspects of GAO’s recommendations. However, opportunities exist for VA to more fully address GAO’s recommendations and thus better (1) manage workload risks; (2) monitor and assess performance; and, (3) plan for further development of information technology (IT). Specifically…”

Access the full 19-page report here.

Source: VA Disability Benefits: Actions Needed to Better Manage Appeals Workload Risks, Performance, and Information Technology – July 12, 2021. GAO.

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