MILITARY

VA urges 'hiring surge' to reduce veterans' appeals backlog

FILE - In this June 21, 2013, file photo, the seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington. The Department of Veterans Affairs is warning of a rapidly growing backlog for veterans who seek to appeal decisions involving disability benefits, saying it will need much more staff even as money remains in question due to a tightening Trump administration budget.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

FILE - In this June 21, 2013, file photo, the seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington. The Department of Veterans Affairs is warning of a rapidly growing backlog for veterans who seek to appeal decisions involving disability benefits, saying it will need much more staff even as money remains in question due to a tightening Trump administration budget. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)  (The Associated Press)

The Department of Veterans Affairs is warning of a rapidly growing backlog for veterans who seek to appeal decisions involving disability benefits. It says it will need much more staff even as money remains in question due to a tightening Trump administration budget.

The red flag is included in a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday. The VA says the wait time of as much as five years for veterans seeking resolution of their claims would continue to grow without a "hiring surge."

The VA says without the staff, the backlog could exceed 1 million within a decade. It estimates veterans could have to wait an average of 8.5 years.

The department currently provides $63.7 billion in disability compensation payments to about 4.1 million veterans.