By Debbie Gregory.
Veterans who have served their country transition out of the military, and they expect to receive their benefits. What they don’t expect is to be told to wait for government benefits. Unfortunately, the massive backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs has kept them waiting for years.
America’s newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a record rate. An astounding 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. To date, one-third of them have been granted disability.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is mired in backlogged claims.
Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) , the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman, welcomed assurances from Thomas Murphy, the VA’s director of compensation services, that the Department of Veterans Affairs has made “significant progress”, and is “at a tipping point” in reducing a massive backlog of claims for disability benefits.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been struggling with an intractable backlog of disability payment claims numbering around 559,000. The VA has focused its resources on veterans who have been waiting the longest – two years or more. Within the last month, the numbers are beginning to dwindle.
The VA made the decision to take all the oldest claims and process each and every one within 60 days. Allison Hickey, the VA’s Under Secretary for Benefits, said that the process was on track.
Over the last two months, the VA cut its overall number of backlogged claims, some of which have been pending more than 125 days, by about 50,000.
In April, the majority of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to President Obama urging his direct and public involvement in fixing the disability claims backlog that has been plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs.
President Obama’s 2014 budget will include a four percent increase for the Veterans Affairs Department, with $63.5 billion in discretionary funds, including $300 million for programs to reduce the department’s claims backlog.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki promised the claims backlog — defined as claims that have taken longer than the VA target of 125 days — will be cleared by 2015.