As uncovered in investigations conducted by PBS Frontline and the Center for Investigative Reporting, the backlog at the Veterans Affairs Department has reached unbelievable levels. The average wait time for a veteran's claim for benefits is 273 days, but the waits can go on for much, much, much longer. The Center for Investigative Reporting's Aaron Glantz reports that veterans filing from high-density locations such as greater New York City can wait as long as 619 days. There are currently 900,000 veterans waiting for their claims to be processed.
And no wonder. Part of the problem is that while the number of claims keeps growing, 97 percent are kept in paper files like the ones pictured above. When the VA looks like a horder's den, that can't be good. As a VA document revealed in the investigations find, the stacks upon stacks of files have created an unsafe working enviornment at the Winson-Salem office.
"The excess weight of the stored files has the potential to compromise the structural integrity of the sixth floor of the facility." Try to find a claim in that. Since this 2012 report, the VA has upgraded the file system to make a safer, more organized workplace. Now, it employs sliding storage shelves (like the ones sometimes seen in doctor's offices), and 65,000 files were put into storage. The system is slowly moving to digital, but for right now, the goal of having all claims processed in 125 days by the end of 2015 still feels like a far stretch.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.