Washington, D.C. — Seeking to reduce the enormous backlog of veterans’ benefits claims, Congressman G.K. Butterfield has introduced legislation that pushes for timely decisions.
“Backlogs are at the point where veterans must wait an average of six months for a decision on benefits claims and some veterans are waiting as long as four years,” Butterfield said. “Veterans deserve better than this.”
Butterfield has offered legislation that would automatically approve veterans’ benefits claims if the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) fails to make a decision within 18 months. The bill also directs the VA Inspector General to establish a task force that would monitor the process to ensure claims are timely and not arbitrarily being denied when approaching the time limit.
Since the beginning of the year, the number of unprocessed veterans’ disability claims has grown by nearly 100,000 and now totals more than 915,000. According to the VA, the average amount of time to resolve disability claims is 162 days, compared with 179 the previous year. And, about 20 percent of the cases have been pending for more than six months.
“These decision should be made within 180 days,” Butterfield said. “Providing a deadline gives the VA an added incentive to make a timely decision, and provides our veterans with an assurance against claims languishing for years.”
Butterfield also pointed out that while the VA has hired nearly 4,200 additional employees since January 2007, the backlog continues to grow. He said that the VA budget has grown steadily in recent years, which reflects the impacts of the needs of an aging veteran population and veterans returning from Iran and Iraq.