Independent Record: Fort Harrison to help with VA disability claims backlog

…VA Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki told U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester Wednesday of the selection of the Veterans Benefit Administration regional office at the fort along with sites in Wichita, Kans., and Milwaukee, Wis., to take part in the VA’s “Transformational Plan” to reduce the backlog of disability claims.

Tester said Thursday it could mean seven new jobs at Fort Harrison.

The VA has a current backlog of about 1 million claims. It expects about 1.25 million disability claims in the next fiscal year, a 4 percent increase over this year, according to the federal budget proposal from President Barack Obama.

The budget, which includes a proposal to significantly reduce the backlog in 2013, said the disability claim rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan is nearly double the claims by veterans of other wars.

In a letter to Shinseki in September, Tester and Baucus noted that the VA ranks Fort Harrison atop the 57 of its regional offices for quality.

“We believe the Fort Harrison regional office is so efficient that it could be used as a model for other regional offices,” they wrote. “Using Montana as a model for other VBA offices would be a good way to begin the process of reducing the national average time taken to process claims and reduce the national claims backlog.”

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