U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) today sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki continuing a chain of correspondence regarding the backlog in veterans' disability claims processing.
Sen. Toomey initially contacted Secretary Shinseki in October to learn what steps the VA was taking to address the backlog. Secretary Shinseki responded in December with an upbeat assessment, but recent press reports suggest issues with a key component of the VA's efforts – the Veterans Benefits Management System.
"I share the frustration of Pennsylvania's veterans and their families with this backlog in disability claims processing," said Sen. Toomey. "I'm glad the VA is working hard to address this long-standing issue, and I will continue to monitor its progress."
The VA's annual claims are expected to reach 1,250,000 this year, an increase of almost 60 percent since 2005. Claims are also becoming more complex, with a higher number of disabling conditions claimed.
Veterans' advocates thanked Sen. Toomey for his diligence on this issue.
"I think that it is great that the VA is stepping up on trying to fix the backlog problem. I hope and pray that they will follow through on this, and I am also very glad that Sen. Toomey took a great interest in this problem and did something about it. Thank you very much Sen. Toomey," said Steven Ryersbach, Commander, AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania.
"I think the military veterans of Pennsylvania and their families can take comfort knowing that they have an elected official in Sen. Pat Toomey who takes their needs and concerns seriously. They know that Sen. Toomey understands that timely resolution of veteran claims by the VA is of critical importance to Pennsylvania's veterans. They also know that he will continue to advocate for them until each veteran receives the care he or she has earned as a result of their military service. This is another example of Sen. Toomey being there for our veterans when we need him," said Joe Eastman, retired Navy officer and Director of Veterans Services at Broad Street Ministry.
"We greatly appreciate the hard work by the Department of Veterans Affairs to catch up on the backlog of veterans claims. We know the backlog is going to continue to grow with many veterans returning from their third and fourth deployments, with still more veterans deploying as we speak. The VFW urges everyone involved with veterans' care to provide the highest possible level of care with the least possible delay and with accurate claims ratings so our heroes can receive the treatment that they deserve. Getting quick, high-quality and accurate assistance will help them to lead positive and rewarding post-military lives. We appreciate the strong work of Sen. Toomey's office to keep our veterans informed and well represented," said Ruth Fairchild, State Commander, PA Department of Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars.