Yesterday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Phoenix, Ariz., President Obama called for a new reform effort in the Veterans Affairs Department. He said VA should harness the best computer system to cut red tape, reduce the backlog of claims, slash wait times and deliver benefits sooner.
The president directed Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients and Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra to work with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the department’s employees to come up with the best ideas to meet those goals and then make them happen.
I have a more modest suggestion for VA today: Get real about the backlog of pending post 9/11 GI bill education benefits claims. The Aug. 17 Monday Morning Report from the Veterans Benefits Administration showed 211,251 education claims pending, which my friends on the Hill say are is backlog of all unprocessed GI bill claims.
That’s an increase of 19,863 pending claims since last week, a 9 percent jump, with school slated to start in about two weeks.
VA told me last week that I should not take these numbers in the Monday Morning Report at face value but has yet to explain why, although I have repeatedly asked for an explanation.
Meanwhile I’m told by a reliable source that VA has paid less than 5,000 education claims for the fall semester, with some 328,000 vets expected to enter school under the post-9/11 GI bill.
If this is true, VA — and Obama — face an impending disaster when college and veterans around the country don’t receive their promised benefits.