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Has the VA's Oakland office improved in a year?

In August, the VA’s inspector general said the weight of paper files at the agency’s Winston-Salem, N.C., office had compromised the structural integrity of the building.
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In August, the VA’s inspector general said the weight of paper files at the agency’s Winston-Salem, N.C., office had compromised the structural integrity of the building.
 
The VA says its Oakland office has “significantly improved" since last year’s "Fix-It" forum, according to a statement released today. But internal VA performance data show that while the number of Northern California veterans waiting on claim decisions has dropped slightly over the past year, delays have worsened.

Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, are holding their second annual “Fix-It” forum Friday for Northern California veterans who are having difficulty obtaining benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA says its Oakland office has “significantly improved since last year’s forum,” according to a statement released today, the result of a staffwide retraining and new bureaucratic approaches, which increased worker productivity.

But internal VA performance data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, parent organization of The Bay Citizen, show that while the number of Northern California veterans waiting on claim decisions has dropped slightly over the past year, delays have worsened considerably.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

 As of Monday, 30,186 veterans were waiting for a decision from the Oakland regional office, representing about a 10 percent drop from last May, but double the number waiting in 2009, the year President Barack Obama took office.

A major factor in the drop is the agency’s decision to send Northern California veterans’ claims to Oklahoma and Nebraska.

 

 

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

 Veterans wait an average of 426 days for a decision from the Oakland Regional Office, up 84 days from last May and 282 days from 2009.

 

 

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

 The number of Northern California veterans waiting over a year for their benefits has increased by more than 5,000 since last year’s forum to 19,384 at the end of March.

In 2009, 681 veterans had been waiting more than a year for a decision from the Oakland office.

 

 

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

 The number of veterans waiting more than two years for a decision from the Oakland office also ballooned, from 465 in September 2010 to 6,001 at the end March.

Between last September and March, the ranks of veterans waiting more than two years for a decision on a disability claim increased by about 45 percent.

 

 

The second annual Fix-It Event is a public meeting that will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m Friday at the War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave., Room 207, San Francisco. Speier and Lee will be joined by Oakland VA Director Douglas Bragg. For veterans, one-on-one sessions with claims processors can be arranged in advance by contacting Richard Steffen in Speier's office, at richard.steffen@mail.house.gov.

The Center for Investigative Reporting has been following the VA backlog for more than a year. For more information, go to cironline.org/veterans.

Are you a veteran waiting on a disability claim? Click here to tell us your story.

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