VA Benefits Backlog to Persist Into 2022
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) July 27, 2021- Officials from Veterans Affairs have warned that the number of backlogged disability claims will likely not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until late 2022, potentially even longer if legislation granting veterans benefits for toxic burn pit exposure passes.
There are currently around 191,000 backlogged disability claims that have been pending for at least four months. The backlog peaked earlier this year at 210,000 claims. In early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic caused national shutdowns, that number was around 70,000.
“Backlogged claims are more than just a headache for veterans,” said James G. Fausone, lead attorney at VA disability law firm Legal Help for Veterans in Northville, Michigan. “Some of those who are struggling with debilitating health conditions are left unable to work and count on VA disability benefits to make ends meet. Waiting months for the process to be resolved can devastate their finances and lives.”
Much of the delay in processing cases is from the closures that occurred at the height of the pandemic. VA claims processors use military and personnel records from the National Personnel Records Center to evaluate each case. Without workers there to pull the documents, the process was at a standstill and new disability filings piled up.
To mitigate the shortage of workers, VA officials helped vaccinate employees at the National Archives and Records Administration against coronavirus to help their offices return to normal. Additionally, 60 VA staffers have been temporarily assigned to the NPRC offices to help with records retrieval and digitization of records. The VA was granted 150 million dollars by the American Rescue Plan to digitize NPRC records for speedier and more modern service.
Even with the extra efforts to tackle the older claims, the backlog will still take time to resolve. In addition to backlogged cases, current claims are coming in all the time. The current total workload is around 500,000 claims.
Officials hope to have the backlog down to below 100,000 claims by the end of 2022. However, officials worry that legislation to add new conditions related to burn pit and Agent Orange exposure will create an influx of claims and tax already overburdened systems. Anyone who has applied for disability benefits and is eventually approved will receive retroactive payments beginning at the initial date of application.
Legal Help for Veterans is a veteran-owned and operated law firm that exclusively handles VA disability claims. For more information on James G. Fausone and Legal Help for Veterans, visit www.legalhelpforveterans.com.