VA Internal Documents Show Widespread Delays in Disability Benefits

VA Internal Documents Show Widespread Delays in Disability Benefits

CONTACT: Zack Baddorf (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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VA Internal Documents Show Widespread Delays in Disability Benefits
Veterans are waiting over 600 days in New York and LA;
IAVA calls on President Obama to Respond 

NEW YORK (March 11, 2013) – A shocking Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) story released today alleges that delays for new veterans to receive disability compensation benefits are much longer than the VA has publicly acknowledged. Relying on internal VA documents authenticated by the agency, the report stated that the number of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits has grown by a shocking 2,000 percent, from 10,000 in January of 2009 to 243,000 in December of 2012. CIR also alleges that the VA expects the number of veterans waiting for benefits to exceed one million by the end of March 2013, and to continue rising for the rest of the year. Also, despite the $537 million invested in building a computerized claims processing system, a shocking 97 percent of claims are still processed on paper. 

The VA reports that, after a decade at war, almost 900,000 veterans are stuck in the VA disability benefits backlog, and 70 percent of claims are backlogged by more than 125 days. However, the CIR reported today that veterans are waiting between 316 and 327 days after filing their first benefits claim, and veterans in urban centers like New York and Los Angeles are waiting over 600 days for a decision. The CIR story also reported that despite the VA’s statements that 3,300 new benefits claims processors have been hired to reduce the backlog, staff turnover leaves the total increase in processors at only 300 since September of 2010. And, at a majority of regional offices, including those in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Waco and Oakland, the VA actually employs fewer people that it did two years ago. 

IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff called for an immediate response from the President.

“If this report is true, it reveals a total betrayal of trust for America’s veterans. IAVA calls on the President to respond to this report immediately. Enough is enough. The claims backlog fiasco has gone on for over ten years and is only getting worse. This CIR story confirms what IAVA is hearing consistently from our members nationwide. Our veterans are hurting because of a flawed system, and it’s clear that the VA isn’t showing results. Disabled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans should not have to wait until 2015 to receive the financial and health support they depend on. We call on the President to establish a Presidential Commission to end the VA backlog now. This backlog is a national embarrassment – it’s time to end it once and for all.”

Next week, on the 10th Anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, IAVA is focusing its national membership on Washington. The organization will activate Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nationwide for its annual “Storm the Hill” effort. 46 leaders will represent IAVA’s national membership in Washington to introduce IAVA’s 2013 Policy Agenda and advocate for the number one priority: ending the VA Disability Benefits Backlog. From March 18-22, in Washington and in their local communities, IAVA’s membership will challenge the President, Congress and the American public to finally end the disability claims backlog. 

These veterans represent 22 states and will be trained in both local and national advocacy, organizing principles and to be spokespeople in the media. They will meet with dozens of lawmakers and conduct media interviews to tell our stories and urge the nation to support the New Greatest Generation by tackling the disability claim backlog once and for all. Following “Storm the Hill” these 45 veterans will participate in a yearlong leadership program that offers opportunities to organize local events, speaking on behalf of the veterans community in the media and spearhead annual campaigns by activating their networks through social media platforms.

On Thursday, March 20th at 11:00 am, IAVA will be hosting an event at the Capitol Triangle to call on the President and the country to end the disability benefits backlog. The event is open to the press and to the public. Press can RSVP at press@iava.org.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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