VA Backlog Grew Despite Online Application Program

Stacks of VA claims.

ATLANTA — The number of backlogged veterans' health care applications grew despite an online program the Veterans Administration introduced in 2010 and touted as a quick, easy way for veterans to apply for benefits, according to a newspaper report.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the number of backlogged applications from veterans across the country had grown to nearly 848,700 by July 2012 and Atlanta-based program analyst Kimberly Hughes discovered that as many as 47,786 veterans died while their applications were pending. Hughes said about one in three online applications met a five-day turnaround date for processing.

The VA's Office of Inspector General and the House Committee on Veteran's Affairs is now investigating the application backlog.

"VA has a responsibility to facilitate the completion of this mountain of pending applications, and it is clearly not getting the job done," chairman of the House committee Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., told the newspaper. "It's time for department leaders to outline a strategy to address this situation or explain to America's veterans why a backlog of nearly 900,000 pending health enrollment applications is acceptable."

In a blog posting and a written statement released Sunday night, officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said the report "failed to include key facts and information."

The statement said that more than 8.9 million veterans had enrolled in the VA health care system since 1998, and that about 2 percent of applications received were "found to be incomplete." The correct number of pending applications is 216,000, the statement said. It added that an analysis of 1,843 pending records conducted earlier this month "showed that the majority of records associated with deceased Veterans (75 were for Veterans who died who were not applying for health care benefits."

"We are working to resolve this situation so that our system will reflect only those Veterans who truly intend to apply for care and benefits," the statement added.

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