A new analysis of backlogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that former service members in the Puget Sound are waiting an average of 235 days to get their disability claims resolved.
The project by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that the delays are greatest in urban areas, such as Oakland and San Diego. Check out the C.I.R. interactive map on wait times here.
Veterans are more likely to have their claims resolved more quickly in places like Boise, Idaho and Missoula, Mont.
Nationwide, the VA took an average of more than eight months to process a claim in June – about 50 percent longer than the year before. Veterans in New York and North Texas waited the longest, at more than a year on average. Those who appeal a denied claim wait 3½ years for an answer.
Why the dramatic differences? A VA spokesman did not respond to numerous email and telephone inquiries seeking an explanation.
Delays have increased despite a new $300 million computer system and 3,300 claims processors hired since 2010 – 765 of them for additional positions.
The department has pledged to eliminate the claims backlog by 2015, but VA data shows the number of veterans waiting for a decision is growing – to more than 907,000 as of July 30, with 832,000 of them waiting for disability or survivor benefits, while thousands more seek a pension or GI Bill education benefits.
To date, the computer system has been launched at just four of the VA’s regional offices, none of them in California. The vast majority of claims still are in paper file folders, which must be physically passed from one claims representative to another.