Senate Committee Adds $30M to VA 2014 Budget Request; Barbara Mikulski Comments

Veterans Affairs Department logoA Senate panel has approved a Veterans Affairs Department spending bill that includes additional funding to support the agency’s 10-point backlog elimination plan, Nextgov reported Tuesday.

Bob Brewin writes the Senate Appropriations Committee added $20 million to upgrade  hardware for the VA’s benefits processing system and another $10 million to cover overtime pay for claims staff.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski said the agency’s backlog problems are apparent throughout the country but nowhere is worse than VA’s Baltimore Regional Office.

“There, the average wait time is 332 days, or 11 months. More than 16,000 claims, or 84 percent, are older than 125 days. The Baltimore Office has the highest error rate of any regional office — 26.2 percent compared to 13.7 percent nationally,” she said.

The bill calls for the VA to form a team of quality reviewers at 56 regional offices and build centers of excellence for handling certain disability claims.

It would also require the department to report backlogs and error rates monthly to both the Senate and House appropriations panels.

Brewin reports the measure calls for the Pentagon to submit health records in electronic form to the VA by the end of this year.

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