Our veterans who have sacrificed so much for this country shouldn't have to put up with the long waits needed to handle their disability claims.
This week we learned that there are more than a million claims in backlog and with 3.6 million new claims expected to come in, the situation will not be getting better any time soon. About 60 percent of the veterans whose claims are backlogged are getting some disability compensation already and have filed for additional benefits for other injuries or illnesses.
The average wait time is now 273 days but with the number of veterans filing their first claim soaring, including those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the wait can be between 316 and 327 days. If a case goes to appeal, that wait could stretch into years before there's resolution.
When he was a candidate, Barack Obama promised to fix the "broken VA bureaucracy," but that has failed due to mismanagement and the need to replace archaic equipment.
One thing the Veterans Affairs office is trying to do is move cases more quickly but the downside is that has led to more mistakes, and only added to the backlog. When errors occur, there's no accountability. The Veterans Administration budget has gone up 50 percent in the last four years but it doesn't look like much was spent on training.
Technology is the other huge problem, especially since the computer systems used in the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration are not compatible. Transferring to a paperless system is a must in order to address the massive backlog and it will also make it easier for more veterans to file for their own benefits online.
President Obama is in favor of an alternative inflation measure to calculate Social Security benefits but advocates for the nation's 22 million veterans fear that such a move would also apply to disability payments to nearly four million veterans as well as pension payments for an additional 500,000 low-income veterans and surviving families.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said he recently warned Obama that every veterans group he knows has come out strongly against changing the benefit calculations.
Under the Obama-endorsed Consumer Price Index formula, Sanders said the losses would become more substantial as the veterans age. Veterans with a 100 percent disability rating who begin getting payments at age 30 would see their annual payments trimmed by more than $2,300 a year when they turn 55.
Last month, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner stated in a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki that the system for handling veterans' claims is broken, calling the backlog and the nationwide system failures "shameful."
Shinseki did announce that he's committed to ending the backlog by 2015 by replacing paper with electronic records. He stated that no veteran should have to wait for claims.
Most of us have learned by now that this administration is good at pledging, especially at election time, but its record is quite disappointing when it comes to following through on the promises.
By Jim Zbick