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Obama urged to solve backlog of veteran disability benefits

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

A bipartisan group of 26 lawmakers with military backgrounds called on President Obama Thursday to take public steps toward improving the disability compensation claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In a letter to Obama, the group of congressmen who are veterans or active service members in the Guard and Reserve, voice their concerns about the current situation at VA — pointing out that almost 900,000 claims have yet to be processed and 69 percent of claimants wait over 125 days.

The average wait time for a claim to be completed is 286 days, according to VA.

“The VA is clearly on the wrong track,” the congressmen, led by California Republican Duncan Hunter wrote. “Mr. President, we know you care deeply for America’s veterans, but it is important for you — as Commander in Chief — to publicly acknowledge the problems within VA and the necessity for reforms and leadership that are capable of alleviating the claims backlog and improving the benefit delivery system.”

“We urge you to take a strong position in support of America’s veterans and use your influence and authority to enfure VA fulfills its duty and obligation to those who have served and sacrificed,” they added.

Last week VA officials announced they will be expediting compensation claims that have been waiting for a year or longer.

“Too many Veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in a statement last Friday. “That is why we are implementing an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog in 2015. This initiative is the right thing to do now for Veterans who have waited the longest.”

In a statement about the effort, Hunter decried the current situation a VA.

“Veterans are a special class of people,” he said. “At the very least, they deserve a benefit delivery system that is reflective of their service and sacrifice, but that’s not what they’re getting. The backlog of claims is staggering and the steady stream of complaints is indicative of a system that lacks efficiency.”

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