By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Congressmen Jo Bonner (R) from Mobile issued a written statement criticizing the VA for its failure to process veterans’ claims in a timely manner.
Rep. Bonner said, “Our country owes our veterans more than parades and cheering crowds. After they return home, our nation’s gratitude for their duty and sacrifice should also be reflected in our commitment to helping all who have served to receive the veterans’ benefits to which they are entitled. Despite a 40 percent increase in funding and efforts to modernize its claims system, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has failed to keep up with backlogged veterans’ disability claims. In the last four years, pending claims have grown by 2000 percent. As a result, more than 600,000 veterans remain stuck in the VA’s disability claims logjam.”
Two weeks ago, Rep. Mike Rogers (R) from Saks sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki seeking answers about efforts to improve compensation claims for veterans. In the letter Congressman Rogers wrote, “While I applaud the VA’s efforts to reduce decision times, I am concerned with the lack of information regarding the implementation of this new initiative. All Veterans deserve to have their claims decided in a timely fashion. I respectfully request that you closely monitor this new initiative to ensure that resources are not shifted away from other Veterans priorities and that the average processing time for new claims does not get longer. Our Veterans have bravely served our country and they deserve the best we can give them. I plan to closely monitor this initiative as it moves forward.” Rep. Rogers said, “These backlogs must be cleared up as soon as possible.”
Rep. Bonner called the backlog, “Both outrageous and unacceptable.” “While the average veteran wait time for first-time disability claims currently ranges between 316 and 327 days, veterans in certain parts of the country, including our major cities, are forced to endure even longer delays in processing their claims. For example, veterans in Pittsburgh must wait 625 days on average; Las Vegas, 681 days; Los Angeles, 619 days; Houston, 586 days; and, New York, 642 days. Here in South Alabama, we are not far behind. Veteran disability claims delays can run from 300 to 600 days. Among the worst cases nationally, veterans have waited 800 days, 900 days, and even more than 1000 days for a disability claims decision from the VA. Solving this problem is critical for veterans of all generations.”
Rep. Bonner said that he had recently joined a number of other Members of Congress in calling on President Obama to take direct action to address this major breakdown in the VA disability claims system. “It’s time President Obama got directly involved to help establish a clear plan to end the VA claims backlog once and for all. This failure is nothing short of a dishonor to our country’s heroes.”
U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Ken Shinseki said, “Too many Veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable. That is why we are implementing an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog in 2015. This initiative is the right thing to do now for Veterans who have waited the longest.”
Congressman Jo Bonner represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. Rep. Bonner is retiring in August. Congressman Mike Rogers represents Alabama’s Third Congressional District.