On Monday, we as a nation observed Memorial Day, a day near and dear to our hearts. However, as we continue to observe and respect what veterans do for this country, there is still a broken system where those still with us are waiting years for benefits to kick in.

Some veterans end up dying before the government even considers their request for benefits.

When President Barack Obama began running a campaign for president against the heavily-favored Hillary Clinton, one thing was pointed out often – he had no executive-level experience. Given his administration’s handling of recent scandals involving the Internal Revenue Service, the disgusting tracking of Associated Press reporters, and the continued lack of attention to veterans receiving benefits in a reasonable amount of time shows that his lack of executive experience is a problem and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better even in a second term.

Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show on Comedy Central, put it correctly. There is no more blaming past administrations. There is no more pointing a finger. Now is time to get the work done and do what’s right for our veterans.

There is plenty of blame to go around. For some unknown reason, our Department of Justice can’t seem to process claims. The VA can’t seem to catch up and no agency is working together to make the process a little smoother for those who deserve immediate attention.

According to a May 15 New York Times report, the problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon given the number of veterans we have, the number of veterans filing claims and a system that is not up with today’s technology. There are 1.71 million World War II veterans alive now, a million Vietnam War veterans are about to turn 65, and there are at least that many spouses who may be eligible for benefits. The number of veterans 85 and older totaled about 1,430,000 last year, compared with 164,000 in 1990.

Generally, it takes eight to 18 months to hear back from the VA after applying for benefits.

The New York Times Report continued saying that as of last year, the VA employed 291,000 people, yet only 20,000 nationwide are assigned to dealing with handling compensation, pension and other benefits for the millions of veterans and their families who are forced to sit on waiting lists.

In just Congressional District 1 in Arizona, there are 70,000 veterans still waiting for their benefits claims to be answered. That means receiving a first-level response, it doesn’t mean the answer is a yes or no to the benefits they have applied for. That makes the process longer than the eight or 18 months.

We can’t say no lawmakers are trying to fix the injustice. There are some working hard to do so. U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz, recently joined colleagues from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, along with veterans groups, to unveil a 10-bill package designed to help the Department of Veterans’ Affairs accomplish its goal to eliminate the backlog by 2015.

 “Arizona’s District One has nearly 70,000 veterans. These men and women have sacrificed so much it’s impossible to count the ways,” Kirkpatrick said. “In return, they deserve to have the help and resources they need. Their claims should be resolved in a timely matter, not stuck in a lengthy backlog. Delayed care is denied care.”

Let’s hope for the sake of veterans that would benefit from this 10-bill package the Obama administration can stop spying on reporters long enough to give it the attention it deserves.

(1) comment

John Flanagan

I for one do not believe the VA system is broken. Like most government programs, it is top heavy and cumbersome, as well as bureaucratic and inefficient at times. Having said that, and being familiar with the system's benefits to my deceased father in-law, I can personally attest to the fine level of care and compassion he received while under the Tucson VA. My father in law passed away in November of 2012 at age 92. A World War Two veteran and former POW during the battle of the Bulge, he had many visits to the VA over the years, and considering the demands on this program, he received very excellent care. Also, we found most VA employees, doctors, nurses, volunteers, and administrators to be motivated and very caring.
The millions of claims for benefits is not an easy challenge, and since the benefits are almost free, or require minimum payments, many people, entitled for full benefits or not, apply continuously.
The system needs improvements, but it is far from broken.

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