The VA has cut its backlog of disability compensation appeals by more than half—to about 175,000—since early 2019 by offering veterans more timely options to appeal, GAO has told a House hearing, but still has more to do regarding both personnel and the IT involved.
For example, a witness said, the VA “has taken steps to monitor workloads and calibrate its staffing needs. However, further efforts are needed to sustain progress and manage workload risks,” such as veterans using the new hearing appeals option at higher rates than the options that do not require a hearing.
GAO also said that VA recently established timeliness goals for all new appeals options, “which better positions VA to monitor this aspect of performance and define resources needed to process appeals. However, VA lacks a quality assurance program and related measures to assess the accuracy of its appeals decisions.”
The testimony added that while the VA has deployed a new IT system to support its new appeals process, it hasn’t addressed IT planning issues such as specifying more fully how and when the new IT system will achieve all needed functionality.
The backlog of appeals, which stood at more than 400,000 at one time, has been a long-standing sore point regarding the VA for veterans’ groups and members of Congress active in veterans’ issues, resulting in a number of hearings, audits and a 2017 law requiring more options to challenge denials of claims.