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Veterans Appeal to Obama Administration to End VA Backlog

As every veteran knows, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation backlog has reached alarming numbers. According to a March 2013 report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, there are nearly 900,000 claims pending at the VA. That number is expected to soon top one million.

On March 20, members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America presented a petition to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, calling for President Obama to “keep the promise we made to the millions of veterans who have served and sacrificed to defend our nation” by ending the benefit backlog. The petition, which includes support from a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress, now has more than 36,000 signatures.

Other means of action are urged. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, also urges the removal of Allison Hickey, the VA’s under secretary of benefits. Miller is frustrated with Hickey, in part because she cannot project where the backlog will stand in 12 months, yet simultaneously promises that no veterans will be waiting 125 days or more for their benefits by 2015. This promise is also dubious in light of the fact that the current wait time for veterans filing an initial claim  is between 316 and 327 days.

This petition reflects the urgent need for real, substantive action to be taken as it relates to our nation’s veterans. While waiting for their disability compensation to be issued, many veterans face foreclosures or bankruptcy. By the time their claim is granted, they may be homeless or facing serious financial issues that could have been avoided with an expeditious resolution of a claim. Meanwhile, the VA faces absolutely no penalty for taking years to resolve a meritorious claim. If a claim is erroneously denied, even if the error is egregious or the wait time excessive, the VA is not expected to pay any type of penalty or interest for the period of time the veteran was without his benefits.

Interesting, isn’t it? That certainly isn’t the case when the situation is reversed : if a veteran forgets to pay all his taxes owed one year, when the Government eventually discovers the error, he’ll be socked with an additional amount owed.

For years, veteran organizations have loudly and forcefully complained about the backlog. Whether this recent effort will gain traction in the Obama administration is yet to be seen, but the reality is clear – the backlog is creating devastating effects on our veterans.  For more information about the efforts of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and to voice your support of their cause, visit their website here.

 

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