Shaheen: Ongoing Backlog Entirely Unacceptable, VA Must Do Better

May 07, 2014

(Washington, DC) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced the Veterans Appeals Improvement Act which aims to reduce the disability claims appeals backlog by immediately increasing the VA’s capacity in underserved areas, including New Hampshire. The Government Accountability Office reports that nationally, the number of appeals awaiting a decision grew 76 percent from fiscal years 2009 to 2012 and during that period, the average processing time increased 57 percent, from 293 days to 460 days, particularly at the Regional Office level.

“I’ve heard time and again from New Hampshire veterans that have spent years waiting on their appeals and this is entirely unacceptable,” Shaheen said. “The VA must do better; I’ve spoken with Secretary Shinseki directly on this issue several times and yet we still haven’t seen the results we were promised.”

“Our bill will address some of the immediate problems, particularly in New Hampshire, and require the VA to report to Congress with a plan to handle the increased work load moving forward,” Shaheen added.

Senator Shaheen’s legislation would require the VA to provide a minimum of three Decision Review Officers at each of the 56 Regional Offices. The Manchester and White River Junction Regional Offices are two of only three in the country with only one Decision Review Officer. The bill would also require the VA to report to Congress on the feasibility of increasing capacity at each level of the appeals process.

Shaheen has worked tirelessly to make care more accessible for New Hampshire veterans, most recently announcing the approval of two VA health care sites in the North Country. Earlier this year she introduced two pieces of legislation to bolster job and economic opportunities for the nation’s veterans,  and she has also been a lead proponent of encouraging veterans legal clinics to provide veterans with basic legal services to help reduce the claims backlog.