OAKLAND -- The Department of Veteran Affairs has hired a new director from inside its agency to lead the troubled Oakland Regional Benefit Office.

Julianna M. Boor, an assistant director at the Seattle office will take over a center that often has been cited as emblematic of an inefficient, bureaucratic system that created a backlog where military veterans can wait for months, and even years, to receive benefits.

Boor has been in the Seattle benefits office since February, 2012, according to her official biography. Prior to that, she served as the veterans service center manager in the VA's Pittsburgh office.

Oakland had been without a director since Douglas Bragg retired in January.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton said in a statement that he is looking forward to working with Boor. Swalwell had co-authored a letter in December to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki signed by 19 members of the California congressional delegation, urging a swift replacement.

"The Oakland VA has consistently had one of the worst benefits claims backlogs in the nation," Swalwell said. "Until recently, veterans were waiting on average more than a year to have their benefits case resolved. This is unacceptable for our veterans who served their country honorably."

Oakland has more than 300 employees and handles claims for veterans throughout Northern California.

The VA has received withering criticism from vets and political leaders alike for allowing veterans to wait so long for their service-connected medical claims to be processed. By early last year, the national backlog -- claims waiting more than 125 days for a decision -- had ballooned to more than 600,000.

The agency has whittled that number down to 308,285 backlogged claims, and 589,767 total claims in the system, according to the VA's most recent weekly report.

Oakland, which had some of the longest wait times, has made similar progress, cutting its backlog in half to 10,942 claims with 19,332 total claims.

But critics contend that still isn't good enough, and that part of the problem in Oakland has been the lack of a permanent director.

The Seattle office has a similar number of backlogged claims (11,770) as Oakland. But where Oakland takes 280 days on average to process a claim, the Seattle office completes them in 182 days, according to the VA.

It is not yet clear when Boor will start.

Follow Mark Emmons at Twitter.com/markedwinemmons.