Veterans Still Seeking Answers on Backlog

Veterans Still Seeking Answers on Backlog

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Veterans Still Seeking Answers on Backlog 

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki addresses backlog at VFW Convention

NEW YORK (July 23, 2013) – Today, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki addressed the VA disability claims backlog in a speech before the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention. There are now 820,317 veterans waiting on decisions on their disability claims, with 65.3% (536,341) of these veterans in the backlog. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) today urged the VA to provide more specifics on how it will meet its goal of ending the VA backlog in 2015, which Secretary Shinseki reiterated today. IAVA thanked VFW for its efforts to end the VA backlog, including providing a platform to discuss the backlog.

“More than a reiteration of the 2015 backlog zero goal, veterans rightfully want to know how the VA will meet its goal. We appreciate that, in response to public pressure, the VA implemented a series of steps that have reduced the backlog. This surge from the VA clearly has made a difference. But with hundreds of thousands of veterans still in the backlog, we must know if this surge is sustainable and if it will translate to lasting change,” said IAVA Chief of Staff Derek Bennett.

“Meeting the administration’s goal of ending the backlog by 2015 requires greater inter-agency coordination and clarity and transparency of planning.  Veterans appreciate Secretary Shinseki’s focus, but one person absent from the discussion is the Commander-in-Chief. It is long past time for President Obama to speak directly to veterans about how his Administration will bring the VA disability claims backlog to an end,” Bennett added.

Recently, IAVA launched The Wait We Carry, an interactive online that shines a spotlight on the struggles of veterans and their families. Created with support from the Knight Foundation, features veterans in the backlog and their wait times. 

One veteran featured in The Wait We Carry is Jason Ayala, an Army veteran from Sun Valley, California. He served two tours in Iraq. His first deployment was from 2005 – 2006 where he helped with convoy security and dealt with a lot of IED attacks.  In 2007 he was stationed in Hawaii and deployed back to Iraq in 2008. 

After returning stateside again, he experienced a downward spiral, as he couldn’t get a job. He filed a claim in December 2011 for his lower back, neck, headaches and PTSD. Half a year after filing, he got a response saying the VA received his claim. He heard nothing until February of this year, when his claim was changed to the developmental stage, however there has been no movement since. He hasn’t had a compensation exam or a rating in the 18 months since he filed. He says that the lack of benefits has affected his family financially, as he feels like he is constantly trying to make do. The benefits would take a lot of stress off his shoulders.

Since March, IAVA has fought to keep the backlog in the national spotlight, to ensure that leading officials take the necessary steps to bring the backlog to an end, and to support veterans stuck in the system. IAVA has also put forth solutions for ending the backlog: More background on the issue and IAVA’s leadership can be found at

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 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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