WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The backlog of claims at the regional Veterans Affairs office in Winston-Salem has gone down, but problems still exist, Sen. Kay Hagan (D) said Tuesday.
In a March letter, Hagan asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to take "a personal interest" in solving the issues at the regional office and to "dispatch senior officials from the VA Headquarters" to address the backlog.
In a telephone call with reporters Tuesday, Hagan said the backlog of two-year old claims has been eliminated. The number of veterans who have been waiting more than a year for a decision is down 48 percent. On average, it takes 200 days to process a claim, down from 329 a year ago, Hagan said.
The senator is particular troubled at how long it takes the Department of Defense to transfer medical records to Veterans Affairs so claims can be processed. The records can't be transferred electronically, so paper files have to be delivered.
According to Hagan, 70 percent of the wait time on claims is due to the delivery of paperwork.
"This is unacceptable," she said.
Hagan has asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to update her on a plan to improve the sharing of records between the two agencies.
The senator also expressed concern about the backlog of veterans' appeals for benefits.
She said nearly 11,000 appeals are waiting at the Winston-Salem office.
In some cases, veterans are waiting four years or longer to hear decisions on appeals, she said.
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