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VA Disability Claims Backlog Doubles Under Obama And Even His Strongest Supporters Have Had Enough

- April 8, 2013

The "Backlog Disaster" Is Devastating For U.S. Veterans And Their Families

The Backlog Of Disability Claims At The VA Is Approaching 1 Million, "More Than Double What It Was When President Obama Took Office." "America's 23 million veterans are facing an unprecedented crisis as the backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has grown to nearly 1 million-more than double what it was when President Obama took office." (Jamie Reno, "As VA Backlog Grows, 'Baffled' Veteran Allies Begin To Turn On President," The Daily Beast , 4/8/13)

Veterans In Big Cities Like New York Can Wait Up To 642 Days For Their Claims To Be Processed. "A new report based on previously unreleased data from the Department of Veterans Affairs paints a distressing portrait of an agency buried helplessly in paperwork - with a claims backlog that has gotten far worse in the past four years. The average wait to begin receiving disability compensation and other benefits is 273 days, and up to 327 days for veterans making claims for the first time. Those in big cities wait far longer - up to 642 days in New York." (Editorial, "The Grim Backlog At Veterans Affairs," The New York Times, 3/11/13)

Despite A New $537 Million Computer System, 97 Percent Of Claims Are Still Filed On Paper. "The reporter, Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent organization based in Berkeley, Calif., plumbed the Veterans Affairs Department's records through the Freedom of Information Act, confirmed the data with the department and spoke with staff members, veterans, veterans' advocates and members of Congress. He found that while the agency has spent four years and $537 million on a new computer system, 97 percent of veterans' claims are still filed on paper." (Editorial, "The Grim Backlog At Veterans Affairs,"The New York Times, 3/11/13)

  • The Claims Backlog In One Office Was So Severe That The Files' Weight "Appeared To Have The Potential To Compromise The Integrity Of The Building." "His article includes a map showing the scale of the problem and a stunning photo from a report last August by the agency's inspector general about an office in Winston-Salem, N.C., that was so deluged with claims folders that they 'appeared to have the potential to compromise the integrity of the building.'" (Editorial, "The Grim Backlog At Veterans Affairs," The New York Times, 3/11/13)

Even Obama Supporters Say He's Not Doing Enough To Reduce The Backlog

Obama Supporters Like Thomas Bandzul, A Prominent Veterans' Advocate, Are "Joining The Chorus Of Critics Who Say The President Has Badly Mishandled The VA." "Given the breadth of the crisis, this widespread outrage isn't surprising. But perhaps what is surprising is that for the first time, several prominent veteran advocates who've been staunch supporters of Obama are now joining the chorus of critics who say the president has badly mishandled the VA. 'I supported President Obama in both elections, but what is happening right now at VA is inexcusable,' says Thomas Bandzul, a well-known advocate for veterans who is legislative counsel for Veterans and Military Families for Progress and past associate counsel for Veterans for Common Sense." (Editorial, "The Grim Backlog At Veterans Affairs," The New York Times, 3/11/13)

  • Bandzul: "It's Time The President Takes Full Responsibility For This Failure, And Takes Action. This Is Happening On His Watch." "Bandzul, who in 2007 worked closely with then-Senator Obama on the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act, said he is 'baffled' by why the problems at the agency just keep getting worse and why Obama isn't doing more to fix it. 'I know Shinseki on a personal level," he says. "I know Allison Hickey on a personal level. They're two of the greatest people in the world. But it's time the president takes full responsibility for this failure, and takes action. This is happening on his watch.'" (Jamie Reno, "As VA Backlog Grows, 'Baffled' Veteran Allies Begin To Turn On President," The Daily Beast , 4/8/13)

Jack Lyon, Obama Supporter And Founder Of Veterans Village Of San Diego, Said The Obama Administration's Goal Of Ending The Backlog By 2015 Is "Now Unattainable." "Obama appointee Shinseki, a Vietnam veteran and retired four-star general, and Hickey, a retired brigadier general, both have said in recent weeks that VA can still keep its promise to eliminate the backlog by the end of 2015 and complete initial veteran claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy. But Jack Lyon, an Obama supporter and veteran advocate who founded Veterans Village of San Diego, a nationally recognized nonprofit that offers a wide variety of services for veterans, says that goal is now unattainable." (Jamie Reno, "As VA Backlog Grows, 'Baffled' Veteran Allies Begin To Turn On President," The Daily Beast , 4/8/13)

  • Lyon Said Obama "Needs To Do More" And Asked, "What About All Those Promises He Made To End The Backlog And End Homelessness? Where Is The Leadership?" "'Veterans are dying waiting for their claims, others are waiting 600 days or even longer, and it's only going to get worse as more waves of troops leave active duty,' says Lyon. 'This is outrageous. The president needs to do more. Whatever it takes. He needs to make better use of his bully pulpit by really explaining this crisis to the American people. What about all those promises he made to end the backlog and end homelessness? Where is the leadership?'" (Jamie Reno, "As VA Backlog Grows, 'Baffled' Veteran Allies Begin To Turn On President," The Daily Beast , 4/8/13)

Bob Walsh, An Obama Supporter And Attorney For Veterans With Disability Cases, Questioned Obama's Dedication To Veterans' Issues Saying, "It's Time The President Started Worrying About Veterans As Much As He Worries About Guns Or Hurricanes In New Jersey." "Bob Walsh, an Obama supporter, veteran advocate and attorney who represents veterans with disability cases, has been fighting for 20 years with VA in Detroit, one of the worst offices in the country in terms of waiting times and errors on claims. A recent Office of the Inspector General review of the Detroit office said staff did not accurately process 31 of 60 disability claims reviewed. Walsh says it's time for Obama and Shinseki to 'get rid of the career bureaucrats and deadwood at VA who are resistant to change. It's time the president started worrying about veterans as much as he worries about guns or hurricanes in New Jersey.'" (Jamie Reno, "As VA Backlog Grows, 'Baffled' Veteran Allies Begin To Turn On President," The Daily Beast , 4/8/13)


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