Dumping our best

9 Apr

VA-Backlog-sizedIt’s easy to be disappointed in our government.

It’s in so much of our lives and frequently doesn’t do a very good job.

Our nation’s 23-million veterans are learning that in a very bad way.

The backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs has grown to nearly 1 million — and that’s more than double what it was when President Obama took office.

The whole thing has now reached a tipping point.

People are beginning to call it a national disgrace and are looking for someone to get fired.

It’s not the fault of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, although he may end up being the one going.

Outdated computer systems, regulatory rules that make no sense, poor planning and Congress turning a deaf ear to calls for change.

Our wounded warriors are paying for this.

It’s gotten so bad that some veteran advocates who’ve been staunch supporters of President Obama are now pointing at him for badly mishandling the VA.

They say they are “baffled” by why the problems at the agency just keep getting worse and why Obama isn’t doing more to fix it.

To be fair, some things are better for vets.

Veteran homelessness has dropped 7 percent in the last two years.

More veterans are working.

Unemployment for post-9/11 veterans dropped to 9.2 percent in March, compared to more than ten percent a year ago.

But people are not pointing to that.

They say the waiting for disability benefits can be devastating for veterans and their families.

Nearly 20,000 veterans died last year waiting to hear about their claims, and the suicide rate among veterans is over 20 per day.

Yes, Obama has substantially increased the VA budget, hired more staff, and implemented new computer systems.

But all of that have failed to reduce the number of outstanding veteran disability claims.

The new computer system designed to fix the broken claims system has its own problems that have instead lengthened delays.

While the VA continues to promise it can complete initial veteran claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy and cut the backlog by the end of 2015, it’s not going to happen.

Veteran’s group are saying vets are dying waiting for their claims, others are waiting 600 days or even longer, and it’s only going to get worse as more waves of troops leave active duty.

They say the VA should first approve the backlog claims and then audit the claims for accuracy, like the IRS does.

And this could be done by Presidential executive order, and this is not a new idea.

Four years ago, the House Appropriations Committee said VA could model its claims system on electronic tax filing systems.

Nothing came of it.

This is one reason you don’t see politicians in Congress blaming Obama.

There’s more than enough blame to go around.

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