The claims backlog continues to plague the VA. This past April, the VA decided to briefly shut down its regional office in Oakland, CA. The goal was to re-train their staff. The closure, according to one source, led to a 27% increase in caseworker productivity. The LA office was also closed earlier this year for four weeks. These closures were intended to stem the growing tidal wave of backlogs facing California's VA offices.
The current number of veterans waiting for results from the Oakland office alone teeters at 30,000, meanwhile 24,000 vets are on hold at the LA office. A report out from the Center for Investigative Reporting claims that new vets should expect to wait for over 600 days for a decision from the Los Angeles and Oakland offices. Both offices boast some of the longest wait times in the nation.
The same report also suggests that, nationwide, the VA makes mistakes in roughly 1 in 3 cases---which ultimately causes even more delay.
The report added that certain cases--namely those concerned with Traumatic Brain Injury and linked to Agent Orange--have up to a 38% error rate, way beyond the national average cited by the VA (14%).
These regional offices need to address this problem head on and look to hire more staff, not simply re-train their existing processors. A recent investigative report claims that the staff numbers at each of the California offices have actually declined, in spite of calls to add personnel. The VA backlog crisis continues, and California is feeling the brunt of it.
Here is a link to a map that details the scope of the backlog at each regional office.
Sources: Aaron Glantz, "Oakland Va office shutdown called a success," San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2013, online here; and Staff, " Oakland VA Office Makes veterans Wait 618 Days for Disability Pay," KQED News, May 13, 2013, online here.