As the disability claims backlog continues to plague the Department of Veteran Affairs, new reports out of Baltimore unearth growing tensions between the VA and other military agencies.
While testifying before a House subcommittee this week, director of the American Legion's Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation Division Verna Jones revealed that VA officials in Baltimore were "aggressively excluding" Maryland servicemembers from a program that would accelerate their disability claims, The Baltimore Sun reported. Jones also alleged that the American Legion, which promised last year to work with the VA faced an "obstructionist attitude" from the Baltimore office.
According to the news outlet, the Baltimore VA is not only the slowest-moving claims-processing office in the nation, taking six months to process a disability claim. By comparison, the national average for disability claims processing is four months.
A March visit to the Baltimore office revealed that the workers were spending more time throwing out veterans than processing their cases, Jones told the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. However, regional office director Michael Scheibel said that several of these claims were thrown out because they were missing necessary documents or the veterans refused to cooperate.
The VA is currently under fire for its mishandling of disability claims, which peaked at 611,000 pending claims last March. The current number of stalled claims cases lingers around 751,000, and more than 400,000 of those claims were filed in the last 125 days, which the VA gives as a standard for correspondence, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. Though the figures remain high, they do show a slight increase for the embattled government agency.