Making the analog-to-digital transition can be awkward for most Americans, but the Department of Veteran Affairs seems to be having an exceptionally hard time. Despite spending more than $537 million over the last four years to modernize and upgrade the filing system to digital, 97 percent of all claims are still filed on paper. A backlog of claims has begun piling up, and the average nationwide wait time to begin receiving disability compensation and other benefits is now 273 days. A staggering 600,000 backlogged folders are sitting in VA offices around the country. And one building has even been declared structurally unsound, according to a VA report about its Winston-Salem regional office.
The VA recently stated that the backlog was due to a 50 percent increase in new claims. The department recently eased restrictions on filing claims for Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress disorder, and new veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are adding to the pile.
The increase in wait time seems to be a new trend. The George W. Bush administration cut wait time by a third, even with 320,000 new veteran claims from the two wars. Internal VA documents show that the backlog began only after President Obama took office.
For more on this story, Aaron Glantz joins us in The War Room. A reporter from The Center for Investigative Reporting, he broke the story on the growing backlog at the VA.