Speed up benefits to veterans

Speed up benefits to veterans

Kansas City Star: Disabled veterans across America are facing shameful delays in accessing earned benefits.

President Barack Obama pledged more than four years ago that he would reduce the waiting period for disabled veterans to get their hard-earned benefits. Instead, average wait times have increased from five months to nine months, and the backlog of claims pending for a year or more has soared 2,000 percent.

That’s unacceptable. Veterans need the benefits to pay bills and get the medical help they deserve for serving the nation.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Eric Shinseki, looks particularly inefficient at this crucial time as Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans request their benefits.

Get past the paper

In the age of modern technology, the agency is a paper-plagued dinosaur. Offices are stacked full of files stuffed with so much paper that officials sometimes can’t find documents needed to process a claim. Too often the solution is to ask veterans to submit more paperwork, ensuring more delays.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have held hearings, heard lofty promises from the VA that things will get better and, well, that’s it.

The VA claims that its new $500 million computer system rolling out across the nation will speed things up. In reality, wait times for disabled veterans have gone up.

Obama needs to publicly demand more from the VA and Secretary Shinseki, while Congress must be more aggressive in protecting the interests of the veterans in their districts.

The VA must dramatically improve its efficiency, hire more claims processors and meet its goal to eliminate the wait time for disability benefits by 2015.

For now, though, Americans continue to hear too many discouraging tales about veterans who can’t get quick access to the financial help they deserve.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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