On Feb. 16, 2022, VA Secretary Denis McDonough held his monthly press conference at VA Central Office in Washington, D.C., which was streamed live to reporters and VA employees. The event covered updates to how VA is handling the omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, VBA’s progress on the claims backlog, NCA’s handling of uninterrupted memorial services, VHA’s mission to meet timely appointments and care authorizations, and the secretary’s work with the Congress to invest in VA employees.

The secretary began the event by noting VA’s core responsibilities: providing Veterans with timely access to world-class care and earned benefits. But getting right down to business, he first addressed the question on many Vets’ minds – the claims backlog.

“VBAs employees have processed more than 7,000 Veteran benefit claims per day for 18 straight business days and counting, the longest such streak in VA history,” he said.

What does that mean for Veterans?

The claims backlog spiked in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but according to the most recent Monday Morning Workload Report, published each Monday since 2004, the number of disability and pension claims pending for longer than 125 days has leveled off.

“That means tens of thousands of Veterans are now getting the benefits they’ve earned and so rightly deserve,” the secretary said.

The pandemic has affected more than just VBA’s resilient workforce, though.

“NCA’s employees have fought through January as well, making sure there was no interruption of memorial services for Veterans, their families and survivors – despite nearly 200 NCA employees (about 10% of NCA’s overall workforce) being out at one time or another due to COVID,” McDonough said.

And in VHA, employees completed nearly three million in-person health care appointments in January. That’s 11% more than January 2021, the secretary noted. In addition, VHA completed 827,000 telehealth appointments and provided 543,000 community care authorizations, which is 20% more than January 2021.

“That’s the type of amazing work that VA employees do for Vets every day, every week, every month of the year,” he said. “That’s why I always say that those employees are VA’s number one asset” and why “I’m asking Congress… to invest in that work – in their pay, their bonuses, their growth and their development.”

Underscoring this need, the secretary noted VA’s desire to remain competitive with private practice pay: VA’s current nursing turnover rate is higher than any point in the last 15 years. The secretary also lobbied for Congress to pass a 2022 budget, not a year-long continuing resolution. With a full year’s budget, VA can continue to hire claims processors to further its backlog reduction initiative, fund cemetery expansion and meet the “billion-dollar shortfall” in community care funding.

For the full event, including Q&A on caregiver legislation, community care, VASRD updates, and burn pits legislation, check out the video embed below:

 

 

VASRD updates to body systemsVA proposes updates to disability rating schedules for respiratory, auditory and mental disorders body systems
Hospital emergency roomStudy shows survival advantage for Veterans who receive VA emergency care

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4 Comments

  1. Brian L Randall February 22, 2022 at 8:21 am

    Mr Secretary. I have a question for you …. Who Holds The VA Dr.s VA Social Workers and Community Care ACCOUNTABLE when in total 6 Drs Social Workers and Community Care people put on a Veterans consult He was a Registered Sex Offender and that veteran was needing the consult to get him in to Mental Health Facility??? And when the Veteran found out everyone of the POS listed above wanted to pass the Buck?? And when the Veteran took it to the IG Office he was told to take care of the matter with the veterans local VA? I want to know who cared enough to do the right thing when the Veteran had tried to take his life and still the VA did nothing but want to hide it??? Well sir The VA has been nothing but a sad sack of Turd Burglars and soup Sandwich. Because of what the VA system said the Veteran lost his Job lost his home lost his car and has nothing because of it. So who Mr Secretary Dennis McDonough Will take Accountability and reach out?? Who does the Veteran have to Freak out on??

  2. John Lawrence February 21, 2022 at 4:14 am

    Thanks for the update. I’ve been curious about the next press conference.

  3. Vicki Marsh February 19, 2022 at 2:51 pm

    I/we vets in the TX Hill Country so appreciate yr sharing info from the press conf. with us. We look forward to the one on March 22nd,

    I’ve only seen one and that was in Nov and rec’d notice of the one in March which I’ve passed along to many other vets.

    I was mightily impressed with Secy. McDonough’s sincerity, knowledge and how well he handled a reporter who apologizes for asking a question that he had previously answered. The Secy replied that an apology was uncecessary and that he had time to answer questions about veterans. Nicely done!

  4. Kevin Edwards February 17, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    Something important that is not being discussed is CHAMPVA. This is sitting at a 5 to 6 month backlog to get our dependents covered under the healthcare system. Also many doctors don’t want to accept CHAMPVA which has put our 100% Disabled Veterans families at of receiving medical care. While we understand that the effective date of CHAMPVA goes back to the award date of receiving 100% P&T that does not deal with the coverage gap while we wait. Unless we are willing to pay cash for a medical procedure. CHAMPVA needs to also be updated so we can enroll online. Once the information is inputted online, it can be quickly verified and provide near instantaneous coverage. If you link it to our ebenefits or MyhealthlyVet account, that would create the easiest link for verification.

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