A pair of U.S. senators is hoping their staffs will have more success than the Department of Veterans Affairs has had in its efforts to reduce the backlog the VA faces in processing disability claims.
In some instances it takes more than two years for the government to process those claims.
“We (in Washington) all hope that we are working every day to pay tribute to our veterans and their families,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). “How can we be true to that promise when you have this kind of a backlog.”
A report in April of this year found that the average backlog for claims being processed by the Pittsburgh office of the VA stood at 625 days. That number was reduced to 474 days in June, according to the most recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Much of the reduction nationwide has been credited to mandatory over time for processors.
Casey, who was joined by Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) Thursday in announcing a working group aimed at dealing with the backlog, does not think overtime and more funding is the long-term solution.
“Sometime the bureaucracy of an agency just doesn’t get the job done because there is not enough of a sense of urgency,” said Casey, who hopes a bipartisan effort in Congress will force the VA to make claims processing a higher priority.
“If we are going to be worthy of their valor on the battlefield, when they come home we at least ought to make sure that their claims are not backlogged like they have been,” Casey said.
Haller said it has gotten so bad that retiring members of the military will often start to file claims as soon as they are discharged just in case they need the benefits anytime in the next two years.
Casey said he hopes the working group will expand to include the help of other elected officials and that assistance from other agencies will be forthcoming.
The senators said they do not want to get in the way of efforts already begun by the VA and investigations being made by House and Senate committees, however Casey thinks, “Sometime you can move the ball forward in a very constructive way if you have something that is a little less formal, that’s smaller and a little more focused, and we believe that we can provide some constructive proposals.”