By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press Writer– 2009-09-23
WASHINGTON – Too many veterans’ disability claims take more than a year to process, the Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general said Wednesday. An audit released by the VA showed that a year ago, 11,000 veterans had claims pending more than a year. It says the agency awarded retroactive payments totaling about $43 million for about a third of them. Of that total, it says about $14 million was unnecessarily delayed because of deficient. Among the worst cases, one veteran was owed nearly $65,000 for a delayed claim, and another veteran waited more than two years for payment, the IG said. “These delayed benefit payments have the potential to adversely affect the economic status and quality of life for veterans who are eligible for benefits,” the IG said. The report said the VA has made progress in reducing lingering claims, but it’s still creating too much of a financial burden for veterans. The VA has hired more claims processors but is struggling with a growing number of claims approaching one million as more veterans file claims who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It recommended changes such as improving its workload management. The VA agreed with most of the IG findings and recommendations, the IG said.