WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that the massive backlog of claims has been "reduced to a manageable level," according to an official statement.
"We typically see a huge workload with education benefits needs around October and February to coincide with the school year," said spokesman Ian Johnson. "But a combination of technology and hard working claims processors have reduced the backlog and substantially sped up the process."
The 27,000 employees recently hired by the VA to stand around the office water cooler "has been a big help," according to Johnson, but it hasn't been the only factor.
"We've reduced complaints and new claims to basically zero in the past week by making a simple change: turning off our phones," Johnson said confidently. "Veterans calling in and asking for an agent are told to call back later, which really helps us out with getting ahead and reducing the caseload."
He went on to speak about new technological breakthroughs that VA has produced.
"In the past, we've had 2 or 3 claims processors standing around an old paper shredder," said Johnson. "It was grossly inefficient. We could only clear ten to fifteen veteran claims per hour that way. We've already installed the new Future Issue Request Evaluator-Veteran system in four regional processing offices and they've been very successful."
The FIRE-V system is a completely automated system that claims processors now use, which is credited with reducing processing time from 22 days in the past, to a current average of 487 days — an astonishing 2114% improvement.
"How it works is basically the employee takes the veterans' records and inserts them into this slot here," Johnson said, as he pointed to a soot-colored opening. "What's really amazing about this machine is that you can put in hundreds of records and it will scan them all simultaneously."
"In the office, we nicknamed it 'The Burn Pit' because it burns through records much faster than our old systems could," he added.
The Veterans Affairs spokesman went on to say that they are upgrading the FIRE-V system to handle benefits appeals as well, through the use of a complex conveyor belt system directly from the mailroom into the "burn pit" for further processing.