Begich to VA: Claim Backlog is Breaking the Backs of Veterans
Begich Uses Roundtable Meeting with Agency Heads to Demand Progress and Accountability
U.S. Senator Mark Begich grilled Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki and Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Chuck Hagel today at a roundtable discussion convened by the Senate Appropriations Committee to address the overwhelming number of backlogged claims languishing in the VA system.
“It was critical to have all of the agencies involved in veterans’ claims at the table today for a very frank discussion,” said Begich, who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Appropriations MILCON/Veterans Affairs sub-committee. “We’ve provided additional funding for a new system, gave them time to implement the new system, and waited for them to evaluate that system. I want to know why I’m not seeing any results.”
The claims backlog remains one of the most significant challenges confronting the VA. Secretary Shinseki has set goals of eliminating the backlog by 2015 and of processing compensation claims so no veteran has to wait more than 125 days for a quality decision on that claim. But the VA has a long way to go in order to meet the Secretary’s goals. As of March 2013 the claims backlog remained at 70 percent of the compensation and pension inventory of 895,029 claims pending over 125 days.
“Over the years, my Alaska offices have intervened on behalf of hundreds of veterans to help them with delayed or denied claims,” said Begich. “We need a solution—now. While I like the ideas and the commitment that I heard today, it is not enough. I will not be satisfied until I start seeing real results. I know the problem extends beyond the VA which is why I’m also taking DOD to task to make sure they have all the tools in place for the transition to civilian life.”
Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and IRS Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support Beth Tucker also attended the roundtable discussion.