Murkowski Commends VA Backlog Progress: Service is a Two Way Street, Keep Moving Forward

Senator Pleased with Improvements, But Pushes for Momentum to Continue

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today responded to the new Department of Veterans Affairs report (attached) outlining its improved Anchorage Regional Office statistics in cutting through the backlog of claims.  The VA provided her with information detailing the positive changes in claim processing time, as well as delays in decisions and benefits.  While statistics are slowly increasing in the lower 48, the more dramatic turnaround in Alaska is partly the result of Murkowski’s demand that a long-term manager be found for the facility, after numerous managers cycled through in the last decade.

“Our men and women in uniform performed bravely and in rapid fashion when they were active duty, and that service and speed must be reciprocated and made a priority when they come home,” said Senator Murkowski.  “This news from the VA gives me a new, overdue optimism that we are making progress at long last in delivering care and benefits in a more timely fashion – but ‘more timely’ is not the goal here; the speediest process possible is.”

The VA reported that its Anchorage Regional Office has made improvements by:

  • Reducing its pending disability claims inventory by 30.6 percent.
  • Helping to eliminate the disability claim backlog by 46.2 percent.
  • Providing decisions and benefits 98 days quicker.
  • Cutting its “year plus” list by 98 percent.

In some respects, this can be seen as a “worst to first” story for the Alaska VA benefits office. Prior to 2010, the VA Alaska benefits operation was managed by a revolving door of managers, some of whom stayed in the job for a year or less. Due to low productivity Alaska claims were actually being outsourced to other VA offices around the country. Senator Murkowski demanded that the VA turn the ship around, and the VA transferred Chad Pomelow from Maine to Alaska in 2010. The turnaround at the Anchorage Regional Office is largely a result of this important change in leadership.

Earlier this year, Senator Murkowski’s work on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee resulted in a “Ten Point Plan” of goals and policies to help the VA reduce its backlog nationwide – and sent a letter to President Obama calling attention to the atrocious 467 day average processing time for VA disability claims in Alaska.