Reduce Veterans Benefits Delays

Veterans Day may not have been viewed as a symbol of our nation’s commitment to those who have served in the military by nearly 900,000 of them – veterans who have been forced to wait, sometimes for many months, while bureaucrats decide whether they should be granted benefits for disability and other reasons.

It takes about eight months for the Veterans Administration to process the average benefits claim. That is two months longer than was required 10 years ago. Sometimes the wait stretches into years.

Veterans are filing more claims for benefits than in the past. Last year, about 1.3 million requests were received by the VA. The agency has added staff and attempted to streamline procedures to reduce the backlog, but with little success. “We’re not gaining any ground here,” admitted veterans affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki recently.

Shinseki, a retired Army general, seems to be trying. But either the VA has not been given enough resources or bureaucrats within the agency are not dealing with the problem effectively. Neither possibility is acceptable.

The VA is dealing with a massive increase in the number of claims, for various reasons. One is that better treatment of battlefield wounds means many troops who in the past would have died survive and require the nation’s support to recover – or for those hurt badly enough, simply to survive.

Providing such support is an obligation. Veterans and their survivors have a right to expect reasonably timely answers to requests for help. If the VA needs more resources to do that, they should be provided. If it requires a shakeup in personnel, that, too, should be provided.