April 30, 2013

Idaho Senators Want Veterans Administration Backlog Cleaned Up

Backlog continues despite a year of work and a $10 billion dollar investment

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is experiencing a backlog affecting more than 600,000 veterans on their disability claims.  Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined their colleagues on a bipartisan letter, authored by Senators Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada), asking President Barack Obama to become directly involved in the situation at the VA.  The senators argue that more needs to be done to address the critical shortcomings resulting in the large number of backlogged claims.  The problem has only been exacerbated by an increasing number of service members returning home from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"Our veterans go above-and-beyond in serving our nation, and we should do the same for them," Crapo said. "I have seen the excitement and relief when a solider comes home, and we cannot let their needs become mired in a growing backlog of service and treatment. With the average Idaho veteran waiting almost a year for a claim, this problem must be fixed now."

"Our veterans deserve no less than timely attention to their medical needs and other concerns. Whether it is a medical appointment, travel reimbursement or payment processing, prompt consideration of a veteran's need should be the normal process, not the exception," said Risch.

The VA informed Congress that technology improvements are key to addressing the backlog, and has requested a subsequent 13.4 percent budget increase for the Veterans Benefit Administration.  Unfortunately, the senators say, the VA has been unable to note specific benchmarks that would allow Congress to measure the effect of increased funding on the backlog.  Currently, 48.8 percent of Idaho's claims are over 125 days old, which translates to 1,892 Idahoans who have been waiting more than 125 days to get the help they need.