By U-T San Diego Editorial Board
For a while there, it appeared that the Department of Veterans Affairs was getting its act together. It was good while it lasted.
The VA’s disability claims backlog — its longtime problem child — grew by nearly 2,000 last week to 401,562. It’s the first increase since July and comes after two weeks of weak numbers that followed the VA’s decision to suspend mandatory overtime to allow for accelerated processing of claims.
Dumb decision. Now that it’s back to business as usual, there’s little likelihood the VA can end the backlog by 2015, as Capt. Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of veterans affairs, promised three years ago.
The backlog peaked in March at 900,000 claims pending for longer than 125 days. In May, Shinseki ordered mandatory overtime for claims processors in the VA’s 56 regional benefits offices. Since then, the situation rapidly improved, as all of the more than 10,000 VA employees who process claims were working a minimum of 20 hours of overtime a month.