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DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
PRESS RELEASES 2013
Backlog of Disability Claims Reduced by 34 Percent since March 93 Percent of Claims Over One Year Old Completed
WASHINGTON (Nov. 7, 2013) –The Department of Veterans Affairs has made significant progress in reducing the backlog of disability compensation claims – from 611,000 to 400,835 or 34 percent -- since peaking in March. Concurrently, VA improved the accuracy of disability ratings, and provided hundreds of thousands of claims decisions to Veterans who have waited the longest.
“Veterans shouldn’t have to wait for the benefits they’ve earned,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. “This has never been acceptable, but we are executing our plans and moving in the right direction to meet our 2015 goal of eliminating the backlog. We still have more work to do, but we are making clear progress and no one is more committed than our VBA employees, more than half of whom are Veterans themselves.”
Since the VA launched the initiative to eliminate the oldest claims first, claims processors at the 56 regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) have been focused on claims that had been waiting longer than one year. As of Nov. 4, VBA has completed 93 percent of these older claims, resulting in over 476,000 decisions for Veterans since the initiative began on April 19. The proportion of claims decisions that resulted in benefits being granted remained on par with historical averages—between 65 and 70 percent.
At the same time, the accuracy of rating decisions has improved. The three-month average for decision accuracy when evaluating a complete claim file is 90 percent -- a 5 percentage point improvement since 2011, and a 7 percentage point improvement since 2010. The three-month average accuracy for rating individual medical conditions inside each claim has climbed three points to 96.7 percent since December 2012.
VBA also directed 20 hours of mandatory overtime per month for claims processors, and worked with the Veterans Health Administration to place VA physicians in regional offices to review medical evidence to help speed decisions. Mandatory overtime was halted during the government shutdown in October, but has been re-established and will continue through Nov. 23. VBA anticipates mandatory overtime to continue in 2014, based on available funding. Optional overtime for claims processors will remain in effect.
“I am grateful to our employees, many who have been working long periods of overtime since May, for their great dedication in helping our Veterans get the benefits they’ve earned,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “I talk to them every day and they are committed to building on their record-breaking progress, helping transform the VA into a paperless system, and ending the backlog for good.”
In the coming months, VBA will continue its effort on further reducing the backlog, focusing on those claims that have been pending the longest. VBA will also continue to prioritize disability claims for homeless Veterans, those experiencing extreme financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims (FDC). Filing an electronic FDC is the quickest way for Veterans to receive a decision on their compensation claim (http://www.benefits.va.gov/fdc/).
Regardless of the status of their compensation claims, Veterans who have served in combat since Nov. 11, 1998, are eligible for five years of free medical care from VA for most conditions.
Veterans can learn more about disability and other Veterans benefits on the joint Department of Defense/VA web portal eBenefits at www.ebenefits.va.gov.
More than 800 Veterans Hired as Mental Health Peer Specialists
and Peer Apprentices
WASHINGTON (Nov. 5, 2013) – The Department of Veterans Affairs has hired 815 Peer Specialists and Peer Apprentices, exceeding the hiring goal set in President Obama’s Aug. 31, 2012 Executive Order aimed at improving access to mental health services for Veterans, service members and military families.
On June 3, VA announced the department met another goal established by the Executive Order by hiring 1,600 additional mental health professionals.
“We have made strong progress to expand Veterans’ access to quality mental health services, but we must continue to increase access,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “These newly hired employees, Veterans themselves, are uniquely equipped to guide fellow Veterans through difficult issues.”
Peer Specialists and Peer Support Apprentices are a unique cadre of people joining VA’s mental health care teams. They are Veterans who have successfully dealt with their own mental health recovery for a minimum of one year. Peer Specialists are trained and certified, while Peer Support Apprentices are undergoing training and certification to become Peer Specialists. An additional component from the Executive Order mandated that all training for these peer counselors would be complete by the end of the year. VA remains on track to meet that requirement.
“We are proud to have exceeded the hiring goal established by the President in his Executive Order,” said Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Robert A. Petzel. “We are well on the way to have all of these new hires trained by the end of the calendar year.”
Specialists and apprentices are working at every VA medical center throughout the country as well as at Community-Based Outpatient Clinics with over 10,000 enrollees. As the Nation’s largest integrated health care system, VA cares for more than 6.3 million Veterans annually, and has seen an increase in the amount of service men and women who are dealing with mental health issues. VA’s push to hire Veterans who can provide peer support is a key part of a greater effort aimed at increasing access to mental health care services for the nation’s Veterans by hiring thousands of new mental health professionals.
Earlier this year, VA announced a 50 percent increase in staffing for the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255), which has been credited with rescuing more than 26,000 actively suicidal Veterans.
This year, VA held Mental Health Summits at 151 VA medical centers across the country to further engage community partners, Veteran Service Organizations, health care providers and local governments, and to address the broad mental health needs of Veterans and their families.
September is the month of many milestones for our great nation. The 2nd marked the 68th anniversary of V-J Day, the day Japan signed the formal surrender of WWII. The 11th marks the 12th anniversary since the attack on the World Trade Center. One day marking the ending of a war, and the other—a beginning. The VFW was there for the veterans returning from WWII and remains ready to help those returning today. To find out how you can help ensure the VFW will be there for future generations of returning veterans visit email@example.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (816) 968-1119.
"For those who fight for it, Life has a flavor that the Protected will never know."
In war, there are no unwounded soldiers
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