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Veterans Affairs Vows to End Backlog of Disability Claims

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell describes backlog as “national disgrace,” demands POTUS hold VA accountable for disarray.

by
Bill Straub

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August 26, 2013 - 12:00 am
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WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki maintains his agency is making headway in disposing of more than a half million backlogged disability claims, but a key Republican asserts progress isn’t coming fast enough and is prevailing on President Obama to take direct action.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, told a veterans group recently that the backlog is a “national disgrace” and that it behooves the president to hold the VA accountable for the disarray.

“An issue this important demands attention from the very top,” McConnell said during a presentation before the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention. “Veterans ought to be able to count on their government, and they ought to be able to count on their commander-in-chief.”

McConnell maintained that almost 750,000 veterans are affected by the backlog and that more than 60 percent of those have been forced to wait in excess of four months to get a response to their applications.

The situation exists, McConnell noted, despite promises from Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign to reduce the backlog. Efforts to modernize the VA’s claims system and a 40-percent increase in the agency’s budget have failed to produce the desired results.

But the agency countered on Aug. 19 that steps taken by Shinseki have resulted in a 20 percent drop in the in backlogged claims over a four-month period beginning in May, leading the secretary to insist that the agency is “on track to eliminate the backlog in 2015” as promised.

The VA considers a claim to be backlogged when it has been pending for more than 125 days. As of Aug. 14, according to the agency, the backlog stood at 490,000 claims out of 773,000 total claims pending. That’s down from a high of about 608,000 — smaller than the number claimed by McConnell  but four times higher than it was in late 2009 when backlogged claims numbered about 150,000.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, characterized the backlog as “unacceptable” but added that the report of progress in reducing the numbers is welcomed.

“No veteran should have to wait years to receive the benefits they have earned,” Sanders said. “We must remain aggressive and we intend to closely monitor the situation to ensure that the progress continues.”

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Top Rated Comments   
Well thank God. Finally, a politician makes a statement. Now, he can move on the the next topic and make another statement. Never let it be said that all the politicians in DC weren't willing to make a statement. I was beginning to doubt their abilities. Now I can rest easy. Maybe Squish McConnell knows somebody in DC in power that can do something?

Hey Mitch what were you doing last year? Have you got Boehner's phone number? If you people wanted to get some action you could pass a bill with a deadline and transfer bureaucrats to Alaska if this problem isn't resolved by Christmas. That might be more work than making a statement so you might need someone to go get you a cup of coffee first.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (10)
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This is just another example of lawmakers passing a law to "solve" a problem. "Oh, we have to include these other things." But then, not preparing for the deluge to follow. They do not anticipate the response and get caught short.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki vows to endeavor to persevere.

Under the Obama regime, the VA's performance is a feature, not a bug.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Shinseki: The Incompetence Continues apace.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Any nation that fails to take care of its wounded vets and honor all vets is a despotism. Oh yea we got that already.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Has anyone thought to've asked the august politicians on the House and Senate Veterans Committee Members themselves to review the short-staffing problems at the V.A. which are obviously a major factor in these delays?

The V.A. Claims Staff certainly are not stalling on these cases. They're overwhelmed by the volume of claims.

These muttering politicians who in fact control the budget and staffing numbers at the V.A. are the ones to be grilled, not the V.A. employees faced with this human backlog.

Here I'll add [as a non-service-connected leukemia patient] that I've got nothing but the most sincere praise for all and each of the Staff and Doctors and the V.A. Medical Center at Martinsburg, West Virginia.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Though I know the VA in general has a lot of problems I want to chime in here in praise of our local VA clinic in Daytona Beach and also the local DAV chapter working with them. I have a problem with my knees that is service connected. Over the years it got worse until I finally had to go to the local VA for help. With the aid and advice of the DAV rep I got my claim processed and approved in about three months. At first my rating was only 20% but after about a year my knees continued to deteriorate to the point I am now rated at 40% disability. Agreed, when I applied for the reevaluation I had to have another xray taken as they couldn't use the one from less than two months prior and a claims specialist had to interview me and check out my knees but this was taken care of in clinic and was processed quickly. I am very happy with the service they are providing me.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Beyond disingenuous. The true delay is the Appeal's process. 2/3 of a year for an initial claim to be processed and awarded? Try appealing a decision made by the VA...it is not uncommon to have to keep fighting them for many, many years, to finally receive *fair* compensation.

Sure, they'll rate you initially within that year, generally unfairly low. If you appeal this (and most do, I did myself), from there ensues a nightmare of constant "more examinations required" (which are seemingly never enough for them), falsely hopefully diagnoses (up to "no change in condition," when a blind plumber could see the degeneration of condition and severity), lost paperwork (I once had paperwoirk disappear between the 14th and 15th floor of the same building - refile the appeal, a delay of an entire year as a result), what have you. It is endless.

there are people who were initially rated very low for serious injuries, appealed, and then had to spend the next 25 years - that figure is not a joke - to finally be fairly and properly rated.

Also, the records center in Saint Louis is expert at losing one's paperwork, and there goes much of your documentation. Numerous Veterans I know have had this happen. Mine have been missing for 30 years and I thank God that I had photocopied records before ETS, or they would have never rated me at all ("oh, sorry, no proof," as if your injuries and operation scars just appeared from nowhere).

This is the *true* backlog, the one they won't mention or discuss.

Not for nothing is the VA's unofficial motto among us Veterans, "Delay and Deny, until you Die."

I worked with homeless Veterans for six years, and during that time assisted quite literally thousands of them through the claims/appeal process (as well as my own, three decade experience with them), so I know precisely whereof I speak.

The claims process doesn't need to be "reformed," the entire system does.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well thank God. Finally, a politician makes a statement. Now, he can move on the the next topic and make another statement. Never let it be said that all the politicians in DC weren't willing to make a statement. I was beginning to doubt their abilities. Now I can rest easy. Maybe Squish McConnell knows somebody in DC in power that can do something?

Hey Mitch what were you doing last year? Have you got Boehner's phone number? If you people wanted to get some action you could pass a bill with a deadline and transfer bureaucrats to Alaska if this problem isn't resolved by Christmas. That might be more work than making a statement so you might need someone to go get you a cup of coffee first.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't press them, please. They may form a committee!
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, if there's one thing in DC that just screams efficiency is is a "committee".
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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