According to a recent report from the Military Times, processing centers for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently have a backlog or more than 70,000 veterans disability claims. Sadly, this announcement comes a full seven months after officials already missed their stated goal of getting this backlog reduced to zero.
This blog has frequently discussed the delays experienced by veterans when applying for disability benefits - a backlog caused by increased applications, out-of-date computer systems, reliance on paper forms, and a seemingly impenetrable bureaucracy. Congress has taken notice, and veterans groups have stepped up to advocate for their disabled comrades. There are now more than 900,000 unprocessed disability claims.
The percentage of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans applying for veterans' disability benefits has hit an all-time high, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans who were deployed overseas to fight in those conflicts have applied for disability benefits. That is more than twice the rate for Gulf War veterans - 21 percent of these veterans are estimated to have applied for and received disability benefits.
Reports about the significant backlog in VA disability benefit approvals can seem dry; is the backlog six months, one year or many years? It depends on how the tale is told and who is telling it. However, when there is a real veteran in the middle of the story, the backlog is no longer academic. Living people - and not just veterans -- are significantly affected by the delays that plague the VA disability benefit system.
The VA has announced that it will begin operations at three sites nationwide to address the backlog of veterans' disability claims. The announcement was made by Veterans Affairs Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki on February 15.
If you have applied for VA disability benefits in the past year and are still waiting for an answer - any answer - you are probably stuck in the VA's disability benefits backlog. Nearly half a million vets are waiting just to hear whether their claims were processed.