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Veterans do deserve quicker VA decisions

UNACCEPTABLE is the initial reaction of anyone upon learning that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had a backlog of 896,409 claims for disabilities a week before Veterans Day.

The nation sent 2.3 million military personnel into Iraq and Afghanistan to remove Saddam Hussein and fight al-Qaida and the Taliban. There is an obligation of the nation to those we sent to fight the War on Terrorism.

But the reason for the backlog is we sent 2.3 million troops into these battles. As they have returned, some have filed claims for injuries and post-traumatic stress that need to be processed. This has overwhelmed the system.

New rules that make it easier to file claims related to the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam also have increased the workload and the backlog.

The Washington Post reported that two-thirds of these claims have been pending longer than 125 days. That's four months.

Gen. Eric Shinseki, former chief of staff of the Army who now heads the VA, vowed in 2011 to "break the back of the backlog by 2015." While the agency contends it is on pace to do so, the goal itself is too distant.

Imagine the reaction by the IRS if taxpayers began telling the government that they would break the backbone of their back taxes in four years.

The administration is not alone in this. Congressmen and senators who love to boast of their support for veterans each Veterans Day should be making sure there are enough people in the VA to process these claims.

A report released Friday by the Center for a New American Security was critical.

"The enormous backlog of claims awaiting adjudication by the VA is tarnishing the VA's brand in the eyes of veterans, who see this backlog as a tangible expression of the government's disdain for them," the report said.

Surely America can do better. We supported sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. We should support them even more as they come home.


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