Paperless Fix Increases Number of VA Disability Claims on Backlog

Kristina Derro, Esq.

The National Work Queue (NWQ) is a paperless workload management initiative designed to improve overall productive capacity and assist with reaching the goals of eliminating backlog. The problem is that backlog has actually increased since the NWQ came into place.

Last May, when NWQ was put in place, the backlog stood at about 76,000 cases. This week, the backlog was at 101,000 cases.

Ronald S. Burke Jr., the VA assistant deputy secretary of Field Operations National Work Queue, did not dispute the numbers, but stated that there are complications of this being a new initiative. Because of the improved efficiency for veterans, the belief is that they submit more claims, causing backlog numbers to actually increase.

One of the perceived advantages of the new paperless system is that the VA becomes more flexible to move claims across the country, enabling the VA to distribute the workload. Some do not see this as an advantage. According to Burke, the new system normally requires five or six involvements by processors. Rep. Elizabeth Etsy believes that the electronic system allows too many VA claims processors to become involved or have “touches” on a particular case, which causes the process to slow down.

Those involved in the claims process have admitted that although the backlog numbers aren’t at zero, and likely never will be, the system has assisted in reducing numbers that peaked at over 600,000 in 2013. The idea of the NWQ system is common sense and should work, but complications in the process are showing adverse effects. Maybe only time will tell if the system is the most efficient for our veterans.