WWII Memorial Just the Tip of Administration's Record with Vets
In 2011 alone, 20,000 veterans died waiting for their claims to be processed.
And there's also concern that the VA is quickly pounding out claims decisions without adequate investigation simply to clear the backlog of unprocessed claims. In the appeals process sit 250,000 claims with an average processing time of 1,200 days.
"It's a very severe problem," Duff said.
Obama bragged about his administration's commitment to veterans at the Disabled American Veterans convention in August. "Since I took office, we’ve made historic investments in our veterans," he said.
"I made it clear that your veteran’s benefits are exempt from this year’s sequester. I've made that clear," Obama continued. "But I want to tell you going forward the best way to protect the VA care you have earned is to get rid of this sequester altogether."
As the government shutdown went into effect Tuesday, so did another long-planned reduction in healthcare coverage for veterans in select areas of the country.
Starting Oct. 1, 2013, the Pentagon reduced the number of Prime Service Areas (PSAs) where it offers the TRICARE Prime managed care option to retirees and their family members. This change affects about 171,000 military retired beneficiaries in 41 states who were enrolled in TRICARE Prime, but not active-duty service members and their families.
TRICARE Prime services are now offered only to those living within 40 miles of a Military Treatment Facility as a result of the incoming contractor, United Healthcare, not covering the services.
News of the controversial move leaked last October but a formal announcement was delayed until after Election Day, angering lawmakers in affected regions.
“I am very troubled by these changes and am concerned that these alterations are not being made in a transparent manner,” Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) wrote to Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, back then.
Despite Obama's veto threat to this week's attempt at VA funding, the bill to continue appropriations for veterans benefits handily passed Thursday by 259-157 -- with 35 Democratic defections in support of the measure and detractors on the left angry that they felt they were boxed into a corner to go on record voting against vets.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected a unanimous consent request by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the Veterans Affairs bill, killing the funding before it could reach the president's desk.
As the clock to a shutdown wound down on Monday night, though, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to keep disability compensation and pension payments going to veterans in the event of the shutdown. “Losing these payments could have a devastating impact, especially on severely wounded veterans who are unable to work and depend on the VA checks,” Sanders said.
With six bipartisan co-sponsors, the bill clearly intended as an emergency measure was shuffled over to the Appropriations Committee to sit there.
With so much at stake for vets, Concerned Veterans for America launched a three-week, cross-country bus tour this month to bring together like-minded vets and advance causes such as the injustice of the claims backlog.
Duff called this week's efforts by Democrats to stop emergency VA appropriations inexcusable "because all of this could have been funded very easily."
"It's very demonstrative of the lack of respect that this administration seems to have for veterans," she added.