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CLEARING THE BACKLOG

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VA Expediting Decision on Claims
By Harold Hutchison

The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving to expedite decisions on claims that have been languishing for over a year.

"Too many veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a release by the Department. "That is why we are implementing an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog in 2015. This initiative is the right thing to do now for veterans who have waited the longest."

"Issuing provisional decisions not only provides veterans with applicable benefits much more quickly, but also gives them an additional one-year safety net to submit further evidence should it become available," said Allison Hickey, VA's undersecretary for benefits. "Our door will remain open, and if a veteran has additional evidence, their case will be fast-tracked."

Currently, the average wait for a decision is 286 days, well over nine months. As many as 55 percent of veterans of the global war on terror have been using VA benefits, which includes five years of free care for combat veterans.