Roanoke Veteran Claims Backlog Down 20 Percent - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Roanoke Veteran Claims Backlog Down 20 Percent, But There is Still Work to Do

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"This is an average of one claim, this much paperwork," said Senator Mark Warner, holding up the hundreds of pages of paperwork for one veteran's disability claim.

By Sept. 30, the Department of Veterans Affairs Roanoke Regional Office will be paperless.

Warner was in Roanoke learning more about the change they say will give them a 10-percent bump in productivity.

"We're seeing progress made but this is not a declaration of victory," Warner said. "It's still taking too long for 250 days on average to get a veteran's claim processed."

Here are the facts about the Roanoke office claims backlog:

  • August 2007: More than 14,600 claims pending and at that time almost a third were pending more than 180 days.
  • August 2010: those numbers rose slightly
  • August 2013: Almost 24,000 claims pending in the Roanoke office with more than 65 percent of those claims over 125 days old.

Regional Office Director Keith Wilson says it's a 20-percent improvement over last October.

"We're not there. I never want to say we're all the way there. We've seen tremendous progress since October, we've laid the groundwork for continued success. We're going to keep working hard," Wilson said.

The William and Mary Law School Puller Clinic in Williamsburg has a new program just approved by Veterans Affairs to help veterans put together their claims. If a veteran submits a fully-developed claim, the VA says it takes about half the time to rate the veteran's claim because all the paperwork is with the application. If a veteran submits claims on their own, it sometimes takes time to track down all the necessary documents and evidence to support the disability claim.

"This is a win-win-win," Warner said. "Veterans get quicker approval for benefits they have earned, the VA can move quicker through its backlog because it will be receiving more complete and accurate claims, and William and Mary law students will develop new legal skills as well as a respect for pro bono service."

William and Mary hopes other law schools across the country will work with them to develop similar programs. William and Mary is partnering with schools like Radford and VCU.