WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) announced this week she received what she said is a promising response to a letter she wrote to VA Secetary Eric Shinseki in September. In that letter, Hagan urged Shinseki to address problems that have caused a backlog of thousands of veterans' claims at the Winston-Salem Regional Office.
Many veterans seeking services there have reported they have encountered up to a four-year waiting period before hearing back about their disability claims. Hagan said in September, there were more than 11,000 appeals at the office.
Shinseki said he shares Hagan's view that the VA must improve both the claims process and appeals system for veterans. In his response to Hagan, he outlined some improvements the VA is working on to make the appeals process faster.
Those intended improvements include more streamlined and focused decision writing, the triaging of incoming appeals to maximize efficiency, increased use of video conferencing technology for hearings, focused training of newly-hired attorney staff, targeted use of overtime to increase productivity, a paperless claims processing system and a standardized electronic form to make filing appeals easier for veterans.
Last year, Hagan said the VA was set to receive a $294 million funding increase. That money is tentatively allocated to be used to help veterans transition to civilian life and clear the backlog of veterans' claims. Hagan said $55 million will be used to pay for the mandatory overtime of VA employees and $135 million to convert the paper records to electronic records.
In his response to Hagan, Shinseki did not specify a time frame for when the improvements to the VA systems would be completed. But, Hagan said she is hopeful they would be made as soon as possible.
WFMY News 2