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VA Disability Benefits: Additional Planning Would Enhance Efforts to Improve the Timeliness of Appeals Decisions

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Technical Report

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U.S. Government Accountability Office Washington United States

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Why GAO Did This Study.VA compensates veterans for disabling conditions incurred in or aggravated by military service. Veterans can appeal VBAs decisions on their compensation claims, first to VBA and then to the Board, a separate agency within VA. In fiscal year 2015, more than 427,000 appeals were pending and veterans waited over 3 years on average for decisions. Of this total, about 81,000 were pending at the Board and the average cumulative time veterans waited for a decision by the Board in 2015 was almost 5 years.This report examines VAs approaches to address challenges it identified as contributing to lengthy appeals processing times, and the extent to which those approaches are consistent with sound planning practices.GAO focused mainly on the Board, which experienced an increase in workload of about 20 percent from fiscal year 2014 to 2015. GAO reviewed VAs proposed plans and actions and compared them to sound practices relevant to workforce planning and implementing process redesign and new information technology identified in federal guidance, such as internal control standards, and prior GAO work. GAO also analyzed VAs data for fiscal years 2011-2015 the most recent available on appeals decision timeliness and workloads reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and planning documents and interviewed VA officials and veterans service organizations.

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