The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 14, 2013

VA finally making progress on benefits claims backlog

LOS ANGELES — Mike Dalton starts his day at a Department of Veterans Affairs office in Oakland doing something he couldn’t do a year ago: He signs on to a computer and calls up an application for disability compensation.

With a few mouse clicks, he pulls the information he needs to rate a veteran’s injuries.

The new computer system is the centerpiece of a major overhaul that department officials promise will clear the backlog of claims that has had severely wounded veterans waiting months — if not years — to find out whether they will receive financial help.

With pressure mounting from lawmakers, veterans groups and the media, the VA has been reorganizing its work flow, hiring more claims processors, revamping their training and requiring them to work 20 hours of overtime a month to clear the backlog.

There are signs of progress. On June 20, the department said it had processed 97 percent of the claims that had been pending for two years or longer, providing decisions in more than 65,000 cases.

As of Monday, more than 751,000 claims were pending nationwide, 457,000 of them for more than 125 days, the VA’s standard for timeliness. That is down 25 percent from a peak of 611,000 stalled claims in March, according to VA statistics. The figures do not include 250,000 claims under appeal.

“The backlog is now declining,” VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in July. “We are somewhat behind where we predicted and would have wanted to be, but that percentage will shift downwards quickly.”

Still, many veterans and their advocates are skeptical that the VA will meet its target of completing all claims within 125 days by 2015.

“The numbers have come down significantly, but to address the backlog by 2015 is still going to be a herculean task,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who co-hosted a town hall meeting with VA officials in San Francisco this year. Veterans at the meeting vented for hours about claims stalled because of lost paperwork, faulty decision-making and bureaucratic red tape.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Tourism push plays up 'Only in Minnesota' ST. PAUL — (AP) — Say goodbye to "More to Explore." Minnesota tourism promoters ushered in a new slogan Thursday that focuses on "Only in Minnesota" experiences as part of their largest-ever advertising campaign. The revamped message kicks off a maj

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp ap pipeline photo Minnesota Pipe Line seeks to expand capacity MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Pipe Line Co. announced plans Thursday to nearly double the capacity of a crude oil pipeline that carries oil from Canada and North Dakota to the two refineries in the Twin Cities that produce most of Minnesota's and much

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holder asserts his commitment to fighting heroin WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been crusading for more lenient treatment for nonviolent drug offenders, making it a top priority before he is expected to leave office this year. Recently, however, he has been forced to confront

    April 17, 2014

  • Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds ATLANTA — Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her speech, but she

    April 17, 2014

  • Tracking system nabbing drug dealers -- and law-abiding pilots LOS ANGELES — Ken Dobson, a retired police officer, said he received quite a welcome when he landed his single-engine Cessna in Detroit two days after leaving his home in Palm Desert, Calif. Five sheriff’s cars surrounded the plane and deputies got

    April 17, 2014

  • Hypersonic jets, lasers future for Air Force researchers WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Air Force hypersonic weapons and fighter jets with lasers could fly in the skies of the future. Air Force Research Laboratory researchers have made top priorities of hypersonics, directed-energy weapons and au

    April 16, 2014

  • Dress codes: Where should schools set limits? EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — They're called leggings — popular fashion items that are tight-fitting pants to some, and glorified tights to others. Younger girls often wear them as pants with little fuss. But as those same girls approach middle school, legg

    April 16, 2014

  • On Vegas Strip, the Harmon tower set to fall -- with a whimper LAS VEGAS — One by one, the grand old dames of the Strip outlived their charms — the Dunes, Stardust and Aladdin — and down they came, thanks to some well-rigged dynamite, in a booming flash of bravado and showmanship that became this city’s staple —

    April 16, 2014

  • Man accused of abusing 2 girls in 'Maidens Group' MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities were searching Tuesday for a self-professed minister accused of sexually abusing at least two girls in a "Maidens Group" at his religious fellowship in rural Minnesota, where he told one victim she would remain a virgin

    April 15, 2014

  • Deputy shot, wounded in Norman County PERLEY, Minn. (AP) — Authorities say a 19-year-old man from Fertile is under arrest for shooting a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop in northwestern Minnesota. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says the Norman County deputy was wear

    April 15, 2014

Press-Plus Subscribe
Sign In
Featured Ads
AP Video