VA Benefits Backlog So Bad it Threatened Employee Safety

Thursday, April 04, 2013
VA backlog in Winston-Salem (photo :Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has had so much trouble keeping up with paperwork claims that the backlog actually became a physical threat to employee safety in North Carolina.


At the VA center in Winston-Salem, 37,000 claims folders were stored on top of file cabinets due to the office running out of space. The result was “an unsafe workspace for (VA) employees” that had “the potential to compromise the integrity of the building,” according to a report (pdf) issued by the VA Office of Inspector General.


The IG reported that the weight of the combined folders exceeded the load-bearing capacity of the building itself.


Employees had to use ladders and step stools to reach some files. This situation produced at least one work-place injury when a worker was hurt trying to retrieve a file.


Since the report was issued, some of the files have been moved to other locations. The VA IG’s office has acknowledged that the situation has improved, but is still not acceptable.


It is estimated that nearly one million veterans are currently waiting for their benefit claims to be processed by the VA. The average wait time for a disability claim to be resolved is 279 days, with first-time claims taking even longer—about 318 days. In the last four years, the wait time has increased by 2,000%.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Veterans Affairs Backlog Files Stacked So High, They Posed Safety Risk to Staff (by P.J. Tobia, PBS NewsHour)

Inspector Finds Veteran Claims Files Stacked On File Cabinets In Winston-Salem (by Faith Abubey and Mark Geary,

Claims Folder Storage at the VA Regional Office, Winston-Salem, North Carolina (VA Office of Inspector General, Office of Audits and Evaluations) (pdf)

Veterans Waiting more than a Year for Benefits have Grown from 11,000 to 245,000 under Obama (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)        


Mintcho E. Mintchev 10 years ago
I worked in the VA for close to one year before I entered medical school. I resigned because management had a problem with the way I was advocating for my fellow Veterans and adequate claim representative training. The main problem in the VA is the way representatives are required to process claims. While I was there, electronic claims processing was only in the testing stages, when it should have been in full swing. In addition, production standards in the VA were simply abysmal. Although management weakly pushed old claims, representatives avoided them because the oldest claims are usually the most complicated and most mismanaged. Representatives rightfully did so, because if they failed to make their quotas, they risked finding themselves jobless on the cold streets of Chicago. The production standards system rewarded completion of easy new claims, while the old claims stayed on the shelves and collected dust. Once, I worked on a claim that was over 10 years old. Apparently, the VA sometimes swallows people's paperwork in what seems to be a black hole. While I was there, I sat across a pile of claims that were all older than 4 years. I couldn't work on them because they were not in my assigned workload and I wasn't adequately trained. One of these claims was 6 years old and the representative who was responsible for it never picked it up. I sat across from that claim for over 5 months, wondering when someone would help the Veteran in question. Someone from the training team eventually completed that claim because she wasn't placed on the production standards at the time. I'm not going to discuss management here in much depth. I have never seen a more complacent, rude, and literally abusive bunch (although a few were exceptional). The service center manager once walked by a team supervisor who was on his knees to pick up a stack of claims. Instead of helping, this man said "I like to see team coaches on their knees." Ultimately, the VA is a very dysfunctional bureaucracy. I urge Veterans to start asking more questions about who processes their claims. I urge them to start asking more about the way in which their claims are being processed. The current production standards and entrenched, incompetent management need a refresh before any progress can occur.
JimS 10 years ago
Iraq War 10-Year Anniversary: 19 March - Done 'In Our Names'!! After abandoning the main missions, and world help, for why we even sent the military into that region!! "We are dealing with veterans, not procedures—with their problems, not ours." General Omar Bradley, First Administrator of the Veterans Administration "If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too — not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013 "Why in 2009 were we still using paper?" VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers "When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade." 27 March 2013 No Revenues = Still No Sacrifice = That's Called 'Support' For The Troops = DeJa-Vu all over again!! Neither war nor especially the results of, decades to come added to previous decades and wars of, have been paid for as the abandoned, and now forgotten, continues as those sent want in a drawdown to accomplish at least a very small portion of those main missions sent to accomplish!! "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." - Abraham Lincoln "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan" - President Lincoln USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

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