The national average for processing claim is 299 from time of filing until the time of the first decision. In Cleveland the average time is 382 days, almost three times longer. And this is only the average time, which includes routine claims (such as adding a spouse or child) where having a lawyer or complicated evidentiary development is not necessary. Claims where there is any type of minor complication will see the processing times in the 500 day time frame.
The VA focus now, and in the news, is bringing down the time it takes to make decisions. But will quality suffer if the VA brings down the time it takes to decide a case? Quality and quantity should not be mutally exclusive. The problem is that the VA doesn't trust veterans, and this problem relates directly to its decades of splendid isolation. No other program was permitted that and no other has the criminally deficient process the VA has.
The VA will only get rid of its backlog, and handle cases efficiently, when it demands that its staff grant where possible and not over-develop cases. There are many stories where the VA could have granted but insisted on further development. If, e.g., they would accept Social Securtity Disability findings as to no substantial gainful employment, and not insist on deciding that on their own, they'd save time. There are, I am sure, many other examples of a systemic change that would help.