IG: Services Share Blame for VA Backlog

Washington Report

(August 5, 2014) The backlog of claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs is partly the result of delays in getting medical records from the services to the VA, according to a report from the Defense Department inspector general.

The report released last week put much of the blame for the backlog on the backs of the services. For example, it found that the Army in 2013 took longer than the 45-day mandate under DoD rules to deliver 77 percent of its records to the VA, according to a story in Military Times. In addition, 28 percent of the records that were delivered were incomplete.

"During a site visit to an Army military treatment facility in December 2013, we found several boxes of [medical records] for service members who separated from the military as far back as July 2011," according to the IG report. "DoD's failure to consistently make timely and complete [records] available to VA likely contributed to delays in processing veterans' benefit claims."

The Air Force delivered 35 percent of its records late in 2013 and 11 percent were incomplete.

The VA has been chipping away at a tremendous backlog of claims. It now says about 270,000 cases have been pending in excess of 125 days, which is half the number from one year ago.

The IG report said the delays resulted from unclear guidance, inefficient procedures and simple mistakes. For example, the report authors found Army National Guard and Army Reserve record keepers were scanning files that had already been computerized.

Military Times reports, too, that the Pentagon will describe later this month new procedures for handling records.