VA officials questioned about Nevada benefits backlog


Members of a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Thursday asked VA officials in charge of the Reno benefits office about the backlog of disability claims they are trying to reduce.

They also wanted to know if the task could be accomplished more effectively if the office was moved to Southern Nevada where most of the state’s veterans reside.

The answers to questions from Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and subcommittee Chairman Jon Runyan, R-N.J., at the Las Vegas field hearing was that the stack of 2-year-old claims was gone and they are chipping away at the 1-year backlog while processing new claims and farming many out to VA offices in other states.

Willie Clark, Western Area director for the Veterans Benefits Administration, acknowledged that the 90-member staff at the Reno office “has experienced challenges over the past few years” stemming from retirements and transfers that have affected performance.

And while the office is “now in a rebuilding stage,” moving it to Las Vegas wouldn’t speed up work by claims adjusters because the handful of employees who field new claims in Southern Nevada can easily scan and transmit them to Reno, he said.

Titus, the subcommittee’s ranking member, remained skeptical about the reported progress.

“The Reno VA Regional Office continues to be one of the most challenged offices in the West,” she said in her opening remarks. “The office currently has 5,813 claims pending. Of these, 56 percent are backlogged, which means they have been pending 125 days or longer.”

“This translates to more than 3,200 claims pending, well beyond the VA’s national goal,” she said. “It is also concerning that the claims that have been completed are not being processed accurately.”

When Reno Regional Office Director Edward Russell was asked by the Review-Journal if the backlog had been reduced by simply denying many claims, he said, “No. We don’t do that.”

He promised to provide records to back up his comment.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

 

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