Washington –U.S. Representative Mike Bost (IL-12), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, convened a hearing on Tuesday morning entitled “Exploring National Work Queue (NWQ)’s Impact on Claims Processing.”

“Rather than assigning a claim to a specific employee to work the entire claim, NWQ breaks up the claim into individual tasks, such as scheduling a disability exam. After one claim processor reviews a file and completes an action, NWQ will likely assign another claim process for the next step. The second claim processor also has to become familiar with the file to determine what additional action is needed for VA to make a decision,” said Chairman Bost. “It doesn’t make sense to me how having multiple claim processors completely review the same file can possibly save time.”

The National Work Queue is an information technology-based system used by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) that automatically distributes claims among Regional Offices (RO) based on their capacity to adjudicate the claim. Prior to the implementation of NWQ, VA’s practice was to process a veteran’s claim at the RO in the state where the veteran lived. The challenge was that some ROs had large backlogs, and veterans in those states were often left in limbo—even if an RO in another state would have been able to process the claim faster.

The NWQ was designed to increase efficiency by automatically assigning the claim to the RO with the highest capacity. NWQ allows VA to distribute its workload evenly across the nation to reduce waiting times for veterans who file claims for benefits. However, there are concerns about whether NWQ is actually performing as it should.  VA’s claims backlog has increased from about 76,000 backlogged claims on May 2, 2016—before NWQ was fully implemented—to more than 100,000 as of February 4th. The question remains whether distributing work through NWQ is, in fact, more effective.