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VA denies high error rate in denied claims

Dec. 18, 2012 - 10:47AM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 18, 2012 - 10:47AM  |  
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The Veterans Affairs Department is fighting back against an independent study that concluded 60 percent of disability benefits claim denials were done in error.

A report by the nonprofit and nonpartisan National Center for Policy Analysis released last week says 31 percent of VA claims are likely to be denied and that 60 percent of those denials are likely be erroneous. VA officials, however, said Monday that only 10 percent of veterans filed notices of disagreement last year and that only 1.2 percent of all VA decisions were reversed on review.

In a statement, VA said the report's errors are the result of using outdated data and reaching "inaccurate conclusions" based on very small samples.

That does not mean VA isn't worried about the state of claims. "We know that too many veterans have to wait too long to get the benefits they have earned and deserve," the statement says. "That is unacceptable, and we are implementing a robust plan to fix the problem."

VA is on track to finish calendar year 2012 with about 900,000 pending claims, with slightly more than two-thirds of those claims being older than 125 days. This is about 20,000 more claims than VA had on hand at the start of the year, and the number of claims older than 125 days —VA's processing goal — climbed from about 560,000 at the start of the year to about 607,000 by year's end.

While the pile of claims is growing, the VA statement expressed confidence that improvements were coming. "VA is aggressively building a strong foundation for a paperless, digital disability claims system — a lasting solution that will transform how we operate and eliminate the backlog. We are 100 percent confident that this plan will ensure we achieve the secretary's goal of eliminating the backlog by the end of 2015," the statement said.

VA says the estimation that 60 percent of claim denials are in error appears to have come from a "flawed" 2009 study of the appeals process.

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