Veterans' BenefitsDespite Recent Improvements, Meeting Claims Processing Goals Will Be Challenging Gao ID: GAO-02-645T April 26, 2002
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will provide $25 billion in compensation and pension benefits in fiscal year 2002 to more than three million veterans, dependents and survivors. For years, the compensation and pension claims process has been subject to long long waits for decision and large claims backlogs. VA's goal for fiscal year 2003 is to complete accurate decisions on rating-related claims in an average of 100 days. To achieve this, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is focusing on increasing production of rating decisions and reducing the inventory of claims to about 250,000. As of the end of March 2002, VBA was completing claims in an average of 224 days and had an inventory of about 412,000 claims. VBA is trying to significantly increase regional offices' rating decision production to reduce the inventory, and, in turn, reduce the time required to complete decisions. VBA expects to increase production by hiring more staff and increasing the proficiency of new staff. Although VBA has recently increased its production and reduced its inventory, meeting its production and inventory reduction and its timeliness goals will be challenging.