67 Senators Call for President Obama’s Leadership to End VA Backlog

67 Senators Call for President Obama’s Leadership to End VA Backlog

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org


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 CONTACT: Carlisle Williams, 212-982-9699, press@iava.org

 67 Senators Call for President Obama’s Leadership to End VA Backlog

IAVA credits Senators, including Casey and Heller and Combat Veterans Lautenberg and McCain, for sending bipartisan letter

 NEW YORK (April 29, 2013) – Sixty-seven members of the U.S. Senate from both parties today wrote to President Obama urging him to “take direct action and involvement in ending the current Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog.” Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) today thanked the Senators – including Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Dean Heller (R-NV) who helped organize the letter – for their efforts in support of veterans. IAVA was proud to work with the Senators and to support the letter. In the last week, IAVA members and supporters from across the country called their Senators asking them to sign on to the letter.

Among the Senators signing the letter were the Senate’s two veterans: Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who served in the Second World War and John McCain (R-AZ) who served in the Vietnam War.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also signed the letter. A full list of signatories is below as is the full text of the letter.

“The growing impatience over the VA disability claims backlog is one of the few genuine bi-partisan issues in Washington today.  IAVA appreciates these leaders in the Senate for their bipartisan efforts to help end the backlog and ensure that veterans get the benefits and care they need. We appreciate Senators Casey and Heller for organizing this important letter with their colleagues.  And we especially are honored that two veterans, Senators Lautenberg and McCain, joined this effort. Our veterans now need to hear from the President about how he plans to bring the number of veterans in the backlog to zero,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and Founder of IAVA.

IAVA has led the charge in Washington to end the VA backlog. In the past month, IAVA Leadership Fellows and senior staff have met with over 65 members of Congress, the Department of Defense, the VA, and the White House Chief of Staff to call for a solution to the backlog. IAVA’s petition calling on President Obama to establish a Presidential Commission to end the backlog has garnered nearly 50,000 signatures. IAVA has also worked with a coalition of Veteran Service Organizations on the issue. More background on the issue and IAVA’s leadership can be found at http://iava.org/endthevabacklog. 

 Full Text of the Letter (also can be found here: http://iava.org/blog/senates-letter-president-obama-endthevabacklog )


April 29, 2013

Dear Mr. President:
 We are writing to request that you take direct action and involvement in ending the current Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog. 

 After a decade of war, and despite the VA’s efforts to modernize, more than 600,000 veterans are still stuck in the VA’s disability claims backlog. While the average wait time for first time disability claims currently ranges between 316 and 327 days, veterans in certain parts of the country are waiting even longer – 681 days in Reno, 642 in New York, 625 in Pittsburgh, 619 in Los Angeles, 612 in Indianapolis, 586 in Houston, and 510 in Philadelphia. In the worst cases, veterans have waited and continue to wait 800 days, 900 days, and even more than 1000 days for a disability claims decision from the VA.

In the last four years, the number of claims pending for over a year has grown by over 2000%, despite a 40% increase in the VA’s budget. As a reminder, during this same time period, Congress has given VA everything it has asked for in terms of more funding and more employees; however, this has not eliminated the backlog of claims. Solving this problem is critical for veterans of all generations. We need direct and public involvement from you to establish a clear plan to end the backlog once and for all.

This country must be grateful for the safe homecoming of every single man and woman who has served in harm’s way.  Our joy at their return must be reflected in our commitment to helping all who have served.  We respectfully ask you and your administration to find a solution that ensures that no veterans are stuck in the VA backlog.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.



Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Mark Begich (D-AK); Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Roy Blunt (R-MO); John Boozman (R-AR); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Ben Cardin (D-MD); Tom Carper (D-DE); Robert Casey (D-PA); Saxby Chambliss (R-GA); Thad Cochran (R-MS); Susan Collins (R-ME); John Cornyn (R-TX); Mike Crapo (R-ID); Ted Cruz (R-TX); Joe Donnelly (D-IN); Richard Durbin (D-IL); Mike Enzi (R-WY); Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); Jeff Flake (R-AZ); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Chuck Grassley (R-IA); Kay Hagan (D-NC); Tom Harkin (D-IA); Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND); Dean Heller (R-NV); Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Johnny Isackson (R-GA); Tim Kaine (D-VA); Angus King (I-ME); Mark Kirk (R-IL); Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Joe Manchin (D-WV); John McCain (R-AZ); Claire McCaskill (D-MO); Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Jerry Moran (R-KS); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); Christopher Murphy (D-CT); Bill Nelson (D-FL); Rand Paul (R-KY); Rob Portman (R-OH); Mark Pryor (D-AR); Harry Reid (D-NV); James Risch (R-ID); Pat Roberts (R-KS); Jay Rockefeller (D-WV); Marco Rubio (R-FL); Brian Schatz (D-HI);  Tim Scott (R-SC) Jeff Sessions (R-AL); Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); John Tester (D-MT); John Thune (R-SD); Pat Toomey (R-PA); David Vitter (R-LA); Mark Warner (D-VA); Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Roger Wicker (R-MS); Ron Wyden (D-OR).


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