(CNSNews.com) – The backlog of veterans’ disability claims has jumped by 179 percent during President Barack Obama’s first term in office, reaching 883,949 outstanding claims, according to Veterans Administration (VA) statistics. (Click Oct. 1, 2012 link.)
The backlog of claims is at near-record highs, with 65.8 percent of claims being backlogged for 125 days or more.
The total claims include disability claims by veterans as well as from surviving spouses, children, or parents. As the VA explains, these claims are "based upon the effects of disabilities, diseases, or injuries incurred or aggravated during military service." And the claims by spouses, children, or parents are based "upon the Veteran's death due to service-related causes." (Click Oct. 1, 2012 link.)
When Obama took office, there were approximately 390,000 outstanding claims, of which only 22 percent had been pending for more than 180 days.
That number had been falling during the second George W. Bush administration, despite the military being heavily engaged in two wars. At the beginning of Bush’s second term, the VA had about 480,000 outstanding claims, with only 21 percent backlogged for more than 180 days.
That number fell by almost 100,000 claims by the time Obama took office
In a speech to the American Legion in August, General Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, said that the VA was working hard to try to process all the claims, noting that “no one is standing at parade rest.”
“The backlog is real, but no one is standing at parade rest,” he said. “This is a dynamic process, and as we pushed 2.9 million claims out the door, 3.5 million claims came in.”
Shinseki promised that his agency would end the backlog by 2015.
Shinseki said the VA had been carrying a backlog “for decades” and added that recent decisions to grant claims related to Gulf War Syndrome and Agent Orange exposure had increased the backlog.
“Three-and-a-half years ago, we were also still grappling with some unresolved issues from past wars -- the Gulf War, over 20 years ago, and the Vietnam War, nearly 50 years ago now,” he said. “We didn't take care of business when we should have decades ago, and some Veterans were dying without benefits.”
However, the backlog problem has more than doubled in the past two years alone. In January 2012, pending claims stood at about 880,000, with 64 percent backlogged for more than 125 days. That number was up approximately 116,000 over the previous year.
The claims are for veterans with some kind of service-related disability such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or some kind of physical disability caused by injury. Once processed and rated by the VA, veterans receive compensation to help offset the cost of their disability. However, so long as their claims are backlogged, they have no access to compensation.
The VA did not respond to CNSNews.com’s request for comment before this story was posted.