A VA underSecretary appeared on television, defending the VA's handling of the backlog over the last four years. Contrary to testimony before the House by another VA Assistant Secretary, this official said that the problem will be solved through technology. The message to the House was that the VA's people will solve the problem. This is an incongruent message. I agree that people at the VA are the only ones that can solve the problem. In my cases, a competent, well informed Decision Review Officer can solve problems quickly and efficiently. But the system is broken, and the people at the VA need to come up with new ideas on how to process these claims in a timely manner, and simply telling VA employees to do better will make no difference.
The VA's idea seems to be a new computer program. On CNN, Secretary Shinseki said that the computer program Veterans Benefits Management System will solve the backlog problem by 2015. We have seen this before, VA touting a computer program as a way to handle the backlog. I have already heard from VA employees that the computer program is up and running, but that it is taking a long time to get used to. The training time to get this program up and running is probably increasing the backlog because of all the staff time it is taking to learn it. Further, time is being wasted because of all the time it is taking to get old cases entered into the system. Only new cases should be electronic, it is simply too late to scan files of veterans that have been out of the service for more than 15 years and expect the backlog to be reduced. I filed my first federal lawsuit against the BVA in 1994. After that lawsuit, I saw the backlog decrease for a number of years. But the VA did not respond to the increasing number of claims and the resulting backlog. I am not a believer that the backlog problem is being solved.
The VA backlog has also been the subject of yesterday's Maddow show.