By Debbie Gregory.
The Veterans Affairs Department says the National Work Queue, an electronic workload management initiative designed to reduce the claims backlog and improve processing wait times, is helping the department turn around veterans’ disability claims more quickly.
The National Work Queue is a national workload approach for processing claims, which, in some cases, may result in a veteran’s claim being processed outside of their home state.
The National Work Queue automatically assigns a veteran’s claim to a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) regional office that has available employees and expertise to process it. In the past, the department processed a veteran’s claim at the regional office in the state where he or she lived.
The backlog of disability claims is higher now than it was before VA stood up the National Work Queue because more veterans are submitting more claims.
The number of disability claims rose from roughly 76,000 in May 2016 — before VA fully implemented the National Work Queue, to nearly 101,000 as of Feb. 4, 2017, according to Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), chairman of the House VA subcommittee.
“As we get more efficient, more veterans are aware of benefits that are available to them,” said Willie Clark, deputy undersecretary for field operations at VBA. “They come in and submit more claims.”
The backlog of claims waiting for initial review dropped from 56,000 pending cases in May 2016 to 18,000 by the end of January 2017.
In 2015, VA completed 45 percent of veterans’ claims within 125 days. As of January 2017, 66 percent of claims finished within the 125-day standard.
So far in 2017, the average number of days for VBA to make the first developmental action dropped from 25 to 10. The average time for a rating decision fell from 29 to 16 days. Award time dropped from eight to four days, and the authorization time fell from four to two days.