Governor Rick Perry announced this week that Texas will invest $1.5 million in a one-year initiative to speed veterans’ disability claims across the state and put a significant dent in the current backlog of 100,000 cases.
According to local news sources, Texas will hire 34 new claims counselors, which will be placed in VA hospitals and clinics in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, McAllen, and Temple. In addition, two state strike force teams will work in the Dallas and Waco claims processing centers to combat the backlog.
The push to help veterans receive their disability payments more quickly is the second of its kind in Texas. In 2009, 12 additional claims counselors led a twenty-month effort to shrink the backlog by 17,000 claims. This time, officials hope that the one-year addition of extra VA employees will be extended in the future.
Currently, pending claims have doubled in the last two years, from less than 40,000 veterans’ disability claims to over 100,000. The rise in claims is due to the high number of veterans returning injured from Afghanistan and Iraq paired with the aging population of Gulf War and Vietnam vets who are still feeling the affects of their military service.
The new claims counselors were funded by this year’s Texas Veterans Commission budget along with a $100,000 grant from the governor’s office given to start off the project.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is in the process of making several changes to its claims process in an effort to reduce the national backlog, including instating paperless applications.