VA’s claims process has undergone a tremendous positive evolution over the past eight years. It is now a ‘paperless’ system thanks to the Veterans Benefits Management System and the digitally based National Work Queue system. This evolution, led by VA’s dedicated claims teams across the country, resulted in a claims backlog of over 600,000 claims in 2012 fall below 100,000 by 2017.
VA defines backlog as the number of claims pending over 125 days.
Two events have occurred that will, however, result in significant claims backlog increases in the near term.
First, unprecedented claims processing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a current claims backlog of approximately 180,000, more than double its pre-COVID-19 backlog levels. After in-person work restrictions at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) caused a significant growth in the number of outstanding requests for military records, VA collaborated closely with (and continues to collaborate with) NARA to retrieve and scan records into VA’s electronic claims processing system. Mitigating these COVID delays will take more time.
Second, VA is beginning to now process claims related to two significant benefits changes for Veterans enacted by law and expect these new processes have an impact on VA’s ability to deliver benefits within 125 days.