Sunday, June 19, 2011

Veteran trapped in 800,000 paperwork backlog

Screaming doesn't help anymore. I wish I could say this horrible situation is new, but it isn't.

VA claims backlog ready to hit 1 million
The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jun 18, 2009 10:56:07 EDT
WASHINGTON — This isn’t the same as getting a free duffel bag for being the millionth person to go through the turnstiles: The Department of Veterans Affairs appears poised to have hit the 1 million milestone on claims it still hasn’t processed.

This unwelcome marker approaches as the agency scrambles to hire and train new claims processors, which can take two years. VA officials are working with the Pentagon under orders from President Barack Obama to create by 2012 a system that will allow the two agencies to electronically exchange records, a process now done manually on paper.

Meanwhile, veterans, some of whom were severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, continue to endure financial hardship while their claims are processed. They wait more than four months on average for a claim to be processed, and appealing a claim takes a year and a half on average.

Adding to the backlog are factors ranging from the complexity of processing mental health-related claims of Iraq veterans, to a change that made it easier for Vietnam veterans exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide to qualify for disability payments. The VA says it’s receiving about 13 percent more claims today than it did a year ago.

Obama: New PTSD rules long overdue step
July 09, 2010
By the CNN Wire Staff

The Department of Veterans Affairs is making it easier for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder to get benefits, a development President Barack Obama calls a "long overdue step."

In his weekly address Saturday, Obama said Veterans Affairs will launch new rules for easing PTSD documentation requirements starting next week.

Current department rules require veterans to document events like firefights or bomb explosions that could have caused the disorder. Such documentation was often time-consuming and difficult, and sometimes was impossible.
When Agent Orange and PTSD claims were made easier to file, the staff already processing claims was overloaded. New hires were made but it takes two years of training for them to be ready to know what they are doing, so processing was slowed down.

On Friday at a DAV conference in Lake Mary Florida, I sat listening to VA employees talking about the flood of claims they have been facing. I wanted to scream when I heard that as older VA workers retire, they cannot hire new ones to replace them.

Why at a time when the government is trying to honor and return dignity to our disabled veterans?

GOP wants to impose hiring freeze on non-security federal workforce

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 24, 2010
House Republicans want to stop hiring federal employees not working on defense, homeland security or veterans concerns, a proposal long anticipated by federal worker unions and supportive Democrats.

GOP lawmakers pledged Thursday to "impose a net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees and ensure the public sector no longer grows at the expense of the private sector." The proposal is part of the 21-page "Pledge to America," a set of proposals to cut government spending, reform Congress and repeal President Obama's health-care reform legislation.

Although Republican lawmakers have targeted the federal workforce this year in separate proposals, the "Pledge" nationalizes the idea of curtailing the federal workforce and makes it likely that some Republican congressional candidates will talk up the idea as Election Day nears.

While cutting payrolls may have sounded good at the time coupled with talking about taking care of our veterans, this doomed every effort made to get there. No one can honestly say that denying a suffering Vietnam Veteran compensation from Agent Orange exposure is a good way to save money any more than they can say denying claims for PTSD is the right thing to do. Honoring the veterans in this country should never be a budget matter open to debate blowing with the party in control. When Tea Party Republicans shout about government spending, do they think about the troops or veterans?

Most of the bills meant to do the right thing for veterans were done between 2008 and 2010 with Republicans voting along with Democrats to pass them but then they turned around and decided that while they voted for them, they would not fund them or increase staff to take care of claims flooding in to an already overloaded system.

When my husband came home from Vietnam in 1971, PTSD was hitching a ride. He finally went to the VA in 1993 and filed a claim. It took six years of hell waiting for the government to do the right thing over a paperwork error. I can tell you that those years were nearly impossible to get through with bills to pay and trying to keep a roof over our heads. My Mom helped as much as she could but there are many families out there unable or unwilling to help. Does anyone care what happens to the veteran and his/her family while they are waiting for their claim to be approved?

The fact remains they were there when they were called on. They didn't say to the nation we had to wait for them so why does the nation say to them they have to wait for us to do the right thing after they were injured for our sake?
Veteran trapped, like many, in paperwork backlog
By Tony Leys, The Des Moines Register

GREENFIELD, Iowa — Joel Klobnak still looks like a proud Marine — from his buzz-cut hair down to the red-white-and-blue prosthetic that replaced the leg he lost in Iraq in 2006.

But he feels forgotten.

The Department of Veterans Affairs slashed his disability pay two years ago over what he says was a misunderstanding. The former Marine is trying to support a family of four on $1,557 a month while he waits to hear whether the government will reinstate full disability pay for his gruesome injury and the mental anguish that accompanied it.

His appeal is trapped in a paperwork backlog that is delaying payments to injured veterans across the country.

Government doctors determined that he couldn't work because of the pain in his leg and the post-traumatic stress disorder that troubled his mind. The determination entitled him to full disability payments, which amounted to $3,103 a month. But in April 2009, he received a letter telling him his payments were being halved because he missed an appointment with a VA doctor.

A national expert said Klobnak's frustrations are the norm. Richard Cohen, executive director of the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates, said the VA has a backlog of 800,000 initial disability claims and 200,000 appeals.
read more here
Veteran trapped in paperwork backlog

Unless congress manages to actually take care of our veterans today, this is about to get a whole lot worse with more and more coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan wounded for our sake and suffering for the sake of politicians flexing their misdirected values.

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