On Monday, the House voted 404-1 in support of a bill (HR 2189) that would establish a commission to examine and offer recommendations to alleviate the Department of Veterans Affairs' disability claims backlog, The Hill's "Floor Action" reports (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action," The Hill, 10/25).
Background of the Backlog
In March, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said that the agency is committed to ending the claims backlog by the end of 2015. Shinseki added that three major problem areas have contributed to the backlog:
- Large amounts of paper-based claims and health records that need to be converted to electronic format;
- A need to sync VA's records with the Department of Defense's records; and
- A growing number of veterans who are qualifying for disability coverage.
Shinseki has said that VA aims to digitize the disability claims process in every regional office by the end of this year.
In June, the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing to discuss the backlog. Later that month, VA and DOD launched an integrated Web-based portal to address the backlog.
The number of claims that have been pending for more than 125 days fell from 611,000 in March to about 500,000 in August.
As of last week, VA said it had more than 411,000 pending claims for pensions and disability claims. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said 57% of VA's outstanding claims are more than 125 days old. The agency has said it hopes to eliminate the backlog by 2015 (iHealthBeat, 8/28). As of last week, VA said it had more than 411,000 pending claims for pensions and disability claims.
Details of Bill
Per the bill, the commission would include 15 people, including eight chosen by the majority and minority leaders of both chambers. The other picks would be made by President Obama, the VA secretary, the Defense secretary and the chief judge of the Court of Appeals for Veterans ("Floor Action," The Hill, 10/28).
The bill would require the commission to seek advice from veterans services organizations, Internet technology companies and the health insurance industry on how to reduce the backlog (Brewin, NextGov, 10/29).