The lengthy claims backlog is arguably the biggest problem facing the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under pressure from Congress, the White House and veterans advocates, the department has taken significant steps to cut into the significant delays facing veterans looking for help with disabilities. There's still a long way to go, but the VA recently announced that it has made considerable progress. Officials say they have cleared 97 percent of claims that were at least two years old, Military Times reports.

A small step forward
VA officials cleared about 67,000 claims from the backlog, but there are many more veterans awaiting attention. An estimated 192,000 claims have been pending for between one and two years, and the VA maintains that it will address those next. The push is part of an ongoing initiative by the VA to ensure that all benefits claims are processed within 125 days by 2015. An ambitious goal to be sure, but likely a necessary one given the number of troops expected to separate from service in the coming years. 

"We have made great progress, but know much work remains to be done to eliminate the backlog," said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

A variety of causes
Before the latest push for the backlog's elimination, there were approximately 900,000 claims waiting to be processed, and there were a number of factors coming together that caused the inflation. One of the biggest reasons was the influx of veterans filing claims for post-traumatic stress disorder and the increasing number of claims related to Agent Orange after the VA changed its regulations in 2010. Analysts say that a high error rate may be causing the backlog due to lengthy appeals, according to U.S. Medicine.

Electronic records a must
Aside from an influx of veterans applying for benefits, the VA has also run into problems due to its outdated record keeping. The VA and Department of Defense kept entirely different records, so when troops left the service it was not always easy to transfer medical information between the two departments. However, work on a joint electronic records keeping system could better improve this transition and result in improved care and a shorter wait for troops, according to FCW.