The more than 204,000 veterans who are awaiting resolution of their unresolved benefits claims could see progress in the coming months. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching an initiative that would reduce the expected increase the pending-claims backlog to fewer than 125 days. The plan calls for:
• Hiring and training 2,000 new claims adjudicators.
• Using American Rescue Plan funds to pay for overtime.
• Using resources from the department’s 2022 budget to support presumptive processing of claims related to exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war, as well as those relating to general compensation and pensions.
VA has 603,000 total claims awaiting processing. The 204,000 unresolved claims could soon climb as high as 260,000. More than 70,000 claims are related to the presumptive relationship between Agent Orange exposure and Parkinsonism, bladder cancer and hyperthyroidism.
The department stated that the Covid-19 pandemic also has contributed to processing delays. The pandemic led to a workload increase at the same time VA followed protocols to keep employees safe.