BALTIMORE – Teams of claims handlers and new technology are being deployed to help the troubled Baltimore Veterans Affairs office, where veterans face some of the longest waits in the country to have their cases handled, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced here Tuesday.
“Many veterans, including those living in Maryland, have to wait too long for benefits, and that’s never acceptable,” Shinseki said during an appearance at the Baltimore office with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) after they toured the facility and met with officials.
“We’re bringing in more people from other regional offices to dig in and clear out the backlog,” Mikulski said.
Two teams of employees from other regional offices will work in Baltimore in February and March to reduce the backlog. In addition, 35 employees at the Baltimore office who had been assigned to other duties are now working solely on the Maryland cases.
The VA is also speeding up the introduction of a paperless claim system to Baltimore now scheduled to begin in May rather than November. The new Veterans Benefit Management System, which was first introduced to the Hartford Office in September, is now in place in 20 offices and is scheduled to be running nationwide by the end of 2012.
The Washington Post reported this month that veterans in Maryland often wait more than a year for a decision, and even then face a 25 percent chance that their claims will be mishandled.
Agency figures show the Baltimore regional office’s performance is among the nation’s worst, with claims filed by veterans seeking disability compensation pending 429 days on average, six times VA’s goal of 70 days, and 162 days longer than the national average.