In fact, the recent performance report shows that 66 percent of claims in fiscal 2012 were more than 125 days old. Thats up from 36 percent in 2010 and 60 percent in 2011.
And since Shinseki told Congress about the improvement he saw in 2009, average processing time has gone up from 161 days, to 166 days, to 188 days, to the most recent 262 days.
Even so, Rubens of the VA said the department is on track to meet Shinsekis goals by 2015, given the restructuring in place.
The department has seen a massive increase in claims from veterans in recent years, both younger ones from Iraq and Afghanistan and older ones who have recently been able to file claims on new conditions. Claims the past four years have topped 1 million a year.
While some decisions might be straightforward a soldier loses a limb in battle others are more complicated, requiring extensive medical reviews and research to tie a disability to the veterans time in the military.
Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the VAs tardiness and mistake-prone process is totally unacceptable.
We know that this is a complex problem and more troops returning home make this job even more difficult, she said in a statement to McClatchy. But Congress has provided VA with the funding and resources it has requested to tackle this problem.
The new performance report shows that the VA has lost ground on many of its other benefits-related goals:
The average time to complete an education claim jumped to 31 days from 24 days; the long-term goal is 10 days.
The average time to complete a burial claim jumped to 178 days from 113 days; the long-term goal is 21 days.
The average time in the appeals system for veterans who dispute their disability compensation decision jumped to 866 days from 747 days; the long-term goal is 400 days.
The annual performance report includes dozens of goals to spur improvement among the VAs health care system, benefits division and cemetery administration.
Of those, the VA highlighted 23 as key performance measures. The VA met its short-term goals for only 12 of those measures.