VA trims disability claims backlog

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WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has eliminated more than 200,000 cases from the backlog of disability claims, a 34 percent decrease since its peak of 611,000 in March, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said.

But he said the department plans to temporarily cease the use of mandatory overtime, an initiative credited as an important part of the reduction.

Shinseki said the agency was easing back on overtime, which began in May, to avoid exhausting the work force.

“You can only run full throttle for so long,” he said.

Shinseki also credited the launch of the VA’s new digital claim system as a key reason for the decline.

“We have been standing astride a river of paper for decades,” he said.

Progress on the backlog slowed during the partial government shutdown, when the VA was forced to stop overtime.

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