WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that they were hiring 27,000 additional workers as claims processors.
In a press release, the VA stated that the workers would join the ranks of the roughly 16,000 employees in the Veterans Benefits Administration who mostly "lose important paperwork, talk next to the water cooler, and occasionally process claims for pension and education benefits."
The announcement comes as benefits claims continue to rise. Some reports put the number at over 550,000 claims for disability benefits alone, with two-thirds of them still pending.
Although Secretary Eric Shinseki says that the hiring initiative is a good thing, he's hesitant to say it's enough.
"It's a step in the right direction for sure, but we have other areas that need improvement," said Shinseki. "We need at least 5,000 additional workers to help lose track of burials at the Cemetery Administration, and I've also lobbied for more paper at the Health Administration for the internal memos we keep writing about veteran suicide not being a big deal."
As part of a "Hiring Our Heroes" campaign, about half of the new employees will be transitioning military personnel that served in pay-grades of E-3 and below.
"These soldiers bring considerable experience in hiding under the desk when someone comes by," said Shinseki, "and really know how to put forth a convincing story of 'already being tasked out' by a non-existent supervisor."
The new hires will enter training classes over the next few months so that they can "hit the ground sitting," according to Shinseki, and help streamline the Department. The training classes are set to be two weeks long and will cover a variety of topics.
"The new joins will first learn about the VA and what we do, proper customer service procedures and how to avoid them, and the most effective way to shred medical records, among other things," said Ronnie Johnson, training facilitator. "We'll then get into more advanced procedures later -- like how to not answer questions over the phone but make it seem like the question was answered."
Johnson says that the additional staff and their advanced training means veterans will receive "the very best."
"I remember when I first started at the VA. We didn't have all this fancy training stuff," said Johnson. "I actually had to learn how to pretend like the telephone connection went dead on-the-job. These guys really have it easy."
Secretary Shinseki closed by praising the dedicated employees that were working hard to not work hard.
"The best thing about the VA are the people who make up our fine organization," said Shinseki. "Whether it is the woman telling you to 'hold your horses' for the GI Bill payment you need in order to pay your rent, or the claims processor who's lost your paperwork three times -- veterans can be certain that we are always here to help."