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VA Reports Big Reductions in Backlog of Benefits Claims

By Hook Law Center

The Department of Veterans Affairs has recently made significant progress in reducing its huge backlog of claims for disability compensation.

Since it peaked in March 2013, the backlog has been reduced from 611,000 to just under 401,000 — a 34 percent decrease. The agency also reported that it has concurrently increased its decision accuracy. The three-month average accuracy rate for complete claim files stands at 90 percent, an improvement of five percentage points and seven percentage points over the accuracy rates for 2011 and 2010, respectively.

In April 2013, the VA announced an initiative to expedite decisions on claims that had been pending for more than one year. The following month, the agency mandated 20 hours of overtime per month for all claims processors through the end of 2013. If funding permits, the VA anticipates a continuation of the mandatory overtime policy into 2014.

Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, reiterated the agency’s goal of eliminating its claims backlog by the end of 2015 and praised VA employees for their hard work.

The VA said that as it works to reduce its backlog, it will continue to focus on those veterans whose claims have been pending longest, who are homeless or terminally ill, who are former POWs, who are Medal of Honor recipients and on those who file fully-developed claims.

It is encouraging to see a coordinated effort to get benefits to our deserving veterans in a timely manner.

Posted on Tuesday, December 31st, 2013. Filed under Veterans' Benefits.

Parents of Special Needs Children Report Reduced Services, Increased Class Sizes Following Budget Cuts

By Hook Law Center

A survey of over 1,000 parents of children with disabilities found that a majority of respondents have seen detrimental effects on their children’s special education services in the wake of recent budget cuts.

In 2013 alone, federal special education funding was reduced by $579 million as a result of budget sequestration — a process of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that began in March 2013 as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Among those parents who reported changes, nearly one third reported an increase in class size, 27 percent said their child’s school had fewer service providers and some 30 percent said their child’s services decreased. Further, 13 percent blamed budget cuts for a change in their child’s school placement.

The survey was conducted by the National Center for Learning Disabilities. The group’s director of public policy, Lindsay Jones, said that service levels were changing based not on children’s needs, but on the availability of funds — and that such policies were contrary to the law.

Generally, previous polls concerning the effect of budget cuts have focused on the opinions of school administrators and other professionals. This survey is among the first to gauge parents’ perceptions.

Unless Congress intervenes to avert them, further across-the-board budget cuts are expected for 2014.

Posted on Monday, December 16th, 2013. Filed under Estate Planning.
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