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Federal Employees News Digest : Feb. 4, 2013
(D) and Ben Cardin (D) detailed their "continued frustration" over the back- log in a Jan. 28 letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki---especially delays at the Baltimore Regional Office, which has highest percentage of backlogged cases in the nation, according to a recent report from Government Accountability Office. "Since 2011, we have pressed you to develop and execute a plan to address backlog and quality issues, yet our veter- ans still experience inexcusable delays and errors in the adjudication of their claims," the letter stated. "We cannot allow this to continue." "The backlog in the Baltimore VA office is particularly bad, with an average wait time for an initial decision at almost 12 months," the letter said. "It has been reported that approximately 84 percent or 16,800 local claims pending in the Baltimore VA office are older than 125 days. The Baltimore office has the high- est percentage of backlogged cases in the country as of Jan. 19, 2013. Furthermore, the error rate in Baltimore is also the highest in the country at 26.2 percent, compared to 13.7 percent nationally." "This is inexcusable and deserves your focused and immediate attention." the senators wrote. The senators asked Shinseki to provide them with details on how VA plans to resolve the issue, how the department is working to meet the 2015 goal of 125-day claims processing, and who is leading those efforts. The lawmakers also demanded an update on development of a paperless claims system, a progress report on devel- oping a GAO-recommended informa- tion-sharing arrangement with the Social Security Administration, and a report on how sequestration will affect timeliness of VA's claims processing. online filing The letter came as VA announced enhancements to the functionality of the eBenefits self-service web portal it oper- ates jointly with the Defense Department to provide vets and service members with access to online benefits resources. Among other things, VA said the lat- est release of the system, eBenefits 4.3, provides easier navigation of its online disability compensation claim submission process by using interview-style questions and drop-down menus similar to those used in tax-preparation software. The latest release also automatically fills in the application with information from a veteran's record in VA's secure database, VA said. Vets also can view processing times for each phase of their claim. According to the department, other site improvements include a tool for deter- mining a veteran's eligibility for voca- tional rehabilitation and employment benefits and a calculator for military reservists to determine retirement ben- efits. A search function also identifies a claimant's assigned service representative, February 4, 2013 Vol. 62, No. 27 5 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com continued from page 4 One Website... Breaking News Policy Reference Legal Updates Job Listings Forums Career Blogs Retirement Strategy Pay & Bene ts Guidance Financial Planning ...Hundreds of Resources www.FederalDaily.com Check in daily to: • Read headlines and top stories, including breaking policy news • Find job opportunities and federal resources inside FedCentral • Join the conversation with 50,000+ feds in the Federal Soup forums • Shop for federal benefts and retirement guides in the FedStore continued on page 6
Jan. 28, 2013
Feb. 11, 2013