Veteran’s backlog2 min read

Carla Arango, Staff Writer

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has decreased its productivity in providing veterans with their benefits, resulting in an average wait time of 318 days for more than 800,000 veterans.

As more and more veterans are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, they begin to file for their compensation, but, workers are unable to keep up with the increasing number of claims.

While the agency spent $537 million on a new computer system to increase efficiency, 97 percent of veterans’ claims are still filed on paper.

As a result of the backlog, veterans are lacking the resources to treat post-traumatic stress disorders, back injuries and blindness to name a few, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting, a non-profit organization.

Last July, Oakland’s Veterans Affairs office closed in order to retrain its staff, which led to a 27 percent increase in casework productivity.

However, this was not a sustainable solution to the claims backlog because new claims continue to arrive faster than workers can process them.

According to the VA internal documents, national worker productivity is at 281 claims per worker annually, which is less than one claim per workday.

Allison Hickey, a VA’s undersecretary stated that this is because workers’ focus tends to be on accuracy in order to grant the correct amount of compensation.

On the contrary, the documents show that “when a veteran appeals a denial of benefits, the Board of Veteran’s Affairs found mistakes 72 percent of the time,” according to the Center for Investigative Reporting analysis.

“Every single day, there are veterans out there waiting, while workers pick away at a mountain of claims,” said Amy Fairweather of Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco-based veterans service organization.

Currently, 818 veterans are waiting for a response and 244,939 are waiting for more than one year for benefits.

As political pressure grows for President Obama to issue an Executive Order that will task policymakers to find solutions to this crisis, the ability to adequately take care of our veterans ought to be at the forefront of any decision to send troops into harm’s way.

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