State of Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs
To answer the basic question that is before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, “Expediting Claims or Exploiting Statistics?: An Examination of VA’s Special Initiative to Process Rating Claims Pending Over Two Years,” I would lean toward expediting claims more than two years old. If the VA’s goal is to expedite those claims because of the time they have been waiting, as opposed to addressing the back log, I fully support that initiative but it does not come without a price. And unfortunately, the price is being paid by our Tennessee Veterans.
The Nashville VA Regional Office (VARO) had approximately 110 claims over two years old when this initiative started and was able to quickly address those. However, the VA has brokered in 1500 claims from the Los Angeles Regional Office for Nashville to rate. Since April 19 Nashville has processed 841 claims from California, leaving 659 still pending processing. 1,740 local claims were processed during this same time period. They have stopped processing all TN Veterans claims, except for fully developed claims, as a result of having to process the claims that were brokered in. For every California claim our VARO has to process, a TN claim goes unprocessed, which will add to the backlog for our Tennessee Veterans. It has also caused a significant reduction in the number of local hearings they have been able to schedule for our TN Veterans.
My Executive Staff and I have discussed the quality of the decisions for the over-two year old claims as well as whether or not they were being given full consideration, to include a compensation and pension exam, if necessary. We also looked at the overall production rate at the VARO to determine if they were processing an exceptionally high number of claims which would be an indication of rushing to a decision. From all that our Claims staff has observed, the VARO is doing due diligence and taking the time to rate these claims properly. The only negative impact they have observed is the delay it is causing for our TN Veterans.