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Bipartisan Maryland House Delegation Meets with VA Secretary Shinseki
WASHINGTON, DC – The bipartisan Maryland House Delegation met today with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki for an update on how the VA plans to improve the claims process at the VA’s Baltimore regional office, which has the largest backlog and highest rate of errors in the country.
Participating in today’s meeting were Representatives John Sarbanes, Steny H. Hoyer, Elijah E. Cummings, Chris Van Hollen, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Donna F. Edwards, Andy Harris and John Delaney.
The Delegation applauded Secretary Shinseki’s plan to expedite claims that have been backlogged for more than a year, as well as his announcement in February that the Baltimore regional office would receive additional training, an influx of senior staff, and a new digital processing system ahead of schedule. However, they urged the VA to develop a comprehensive plan to improve the functionality of the Baltimore regional office and retain a qualified workforce to meet the needs of Maryland’s veterans.
“Maryland’s veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to serve our country and they shouldn’t be forced to fight for the benefits they’ve earned,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Although the VA was slow to react to the severe problems in the Baltimore regional office, I am guardedly optimistic that we’re beginning to turn a corner and will work with my colleagues in the Congress to ensure continued progress.”
Nationally, the average wait time for a veteran’s claim decision is 273 days and approximately 65 percent of the 903,000 pending claims are older than 125 days. In Maryland, the situation is worse with veterans waiting on average 332 days or 11 months for a claims decision from the Baltimore regional office. 84 percent of the nearly 20,000 pending claims are older than 125 days. In addition, the Baltimore regional office has an error rate of 26.2 percent, while the national error rate is 13 percent.
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