March 13th, 2013
10:17 PM ET

Veterans' wait time for benefits is 'too long,' VA official concedes

By Jennifer Rizzo

Questioned about a growing backlog of veterans' claims, a top Veteran Affairs official conceded Wednesday that veterans wait "too long" to receive benefits.

"Too many veterans still have to wait too long to get the compensation benefits they earn, and that is unacceptable to us," said Allison Hickey, Undersecretary for Benefits, during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Senators pressed officials from the VA on the increase in the number of veterans waiting more than 125 days for their benefits claims to go through.

A recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since President Obama took office in 2009, the number of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits has skyrocketed, from 11,000 in 2009 to 245,000 in December 2012, a jump of more than 2,000%.

The VA states the average wait time after a veteran files a claim is 273 days. But for veterans filing their first claim, including Iraq and Afghanistan vets, the wait is up to 327 days, nearly two months longer. In big cities such as New York, veterans could wait for almost two years. CIR analyzed the data obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request.

"When I look at the numbers four years later ... it's not getting better," Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) stated during the hearing. "I can tell you that the increase in calls in my office are not going down."

Hickey cited an increase in demand because of the length of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a decision to expand benefits to those suffering from illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.

"What I will say is the demand has risen, and I will go back to saying we have done a million claims a year," Hickey said. "These hardworking folks want to do what's right for their family members."

The number of claims has increased. In 2001, the VA completed approximately 480,000 claims, in 2002 approximately 796,000 claims and in 2003 around 827,000 claims, according to Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, the VA completed more than 1 million claims each year, he said.

Veterans service organizations say filing a claim can be as challenging as filing a complex tax return or defending yourself in a lawsuit. In the meantime, veterans experience hardships.

"Our veterans go through a lot of the same everyday trials and challenges that everyone else does. They have bills to pay. They have mortgages. They have car loans. Many of them are going back to school, and on top of that they have their service-connected disabilities," said Jay Agg, spokesman for the veterans service group AMVETS. "So having to wait months, years for their benefits to which they're entitled is very frustrating, and it's just compounded when they have to deal with all these other challenges."

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  61. Richard Stevenson

    I was in the Vietnam war era and I have been waiting all most eight years and that is a very long time.

    January 12, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  62. Charise

    Our veterans did not delay when it came to serving our nation. Why is there a delay in receiving their benefits. If the VA has a shortage of employees to process the applications then the VA should open some jobs. This is an issue because so many are waiting to receive the benefits that are due. It's as if you worked for an employer but did not get paid.

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  64. Graves

    Three years. Our son has been in college going on three years. It's bad enough that my husband didn't retire "at the right time" for his GI Bill to transfer to our son – but when our son turned 18 benefits stopped. We've been paying his bills, paying tuition, and every time we call VA – "We have the paperwork, we need more paperwork, we don't see the paperwork. We need this form completed, I don't see the form." Every month we call, every month they tell my husband to send something different. As an Army wife since 1987 – never a complaint – even when we had housing in 1988 with small children and my Serviceman was bringing home $300 a month. But jeez – will this ever get fixed???

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  66. Gamesman

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    May 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  67. Nolen, Jeremy

    I have now been waiting 546 days for my claim to be resolved. -OIF Veteran

    March 22, 2013 at 11:38 am | Reply
  68. Gerry Seals

    "A recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since President Obama took office in 2009, the number of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits has skyrocketed, from 11,000 in 2009 to 245,000 in December 2012, a jump of more than 2,000%"

    Does the report also address how many new claims were filed during that time? Many Veterans have returned from deployment or left the service during that time period and may have filed a claim so showing the percent of increase during this time may or may not show a relation in the backlog.

    March 22, 2013 at 11:34 am | Reply
  69. navgal

    They say the average claim takes 273 days. I filed in November 2010. After many calls to American Legion rep, Veteran's services, the VA, etc – they finally rated me 70% service connected and started payments in August 2012. I have been waiting since then for IU completion. My "latest" completion date is September 2013.

    I haven't had any difficulties receiving medical treatment, maybe a little slow in some areas but they eventually take care of issues. And certainly some doctors are better than others. Once they understood that I did not want to take medications they got me into other PTSD programs fairly quickly – by VA standards. It's true that the parking lot in Orlando is full most of the time...I arrive at least 30 minutes before my appointments and can usually find a fairly close parking space.

    And I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Something has to be done to correct this backlog now!!

    March 20, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Reply
    • Capt Chuck

      I wish all I had to deal with was parking. Here in hawaii it often takes 3-6 months to see a doctor. There are NO ptsd programs. Hey, some one tell Patriot that they should push their crazy on some otherr web site.

      March 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Reply
  70. Capt Chuck

    I invite CNN to go with us as disabled veterans under cover and film the way disabled veterans w/ PTSD and other disabilities are treated here in Hawaii. I will be glad to provide all the evidence you need to show how veterans are abused neglected and mistreated by the Veterans Health care system and by the VA. Come on. You folks say you care then back it up. Lets do a real investigating report w/ hidden cameras. I offer mtyself to carry one to show every one how our health care really you really care about this story or what?

    March 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  71. Capt Chuck

    I and all of my VietNam veteran friends waited 6-15 years for our disabilities. I see not much has changed. No one in the V.A. is ever held accountable. We have had the same doctor here in Hawaii abusing and negelecting veterans for over 15 years. When we talk about our PTSD he waves the flag and tells us nothing more can be done. We never even go to see him any more. Everyone I know wants to kill him. He will retire soon after abusing hundreds if not thousands of veterans w/ PTSD. He has NEVER helped anyone. The VA has not changed at all in over 25 years I have been involved as a 100% disabled veteran. I had to go to the private sector to get help for my PTSD and pay for it myself. NO ONE CARES. It makes a great story on TV then nothing ever happens. Veterans health care is a national discrace.

    March 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  72. Capt Chuck

    I am a 100% disabled veteran. I waited 6 years for my disability. I have never ever been properly treated by the Veterans Administration. My best friend killed himself under their care. The VA is now a cabnet post and politicians do nt care about veterans anymore. The Veterans Admin has always abused and negelected veterans. Veterans w/ PTSD still to this day get NO treatment for PTSD except for toxic drugs that do no good at all. Therapy is sometimes available from flag waving conservative right wing doctors who have made working for the VA a lifetime job. They only care about their retirements not veterans care. This is a national discrace and the politicians who are veterans and not making noise about this should be voted out of office. The VA shoulkd NOT be a cabnet post and should be more accountable for its actions.

    March 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  73. Thomas Harris

    I have been waiting three years this August, and am still not service connected.

    March 18, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  74. mikey

    It is sad but true of the wait time. As the undersecretary said, VBA is overrun with claims. The employees are grinding as hard trying to process claims quicker. Rules, policies, procedures what-have-you's are there like anything else. VBA starting/running all kinds of programs to quiken the process instead of concentrating on one; does not help. Then add in a system that is older than old along with other issues (i am unable to mention) really grinds things down to a slow-mo! Last but not least throw in Veteran Service Organizations that their performance are based on how many veteran claims they turn in, regardless if its merits and a congress thats in gridlock would definitely be a disaster.

    Yes, you can always go to your congressman to try and expedite things but what if everyone starts doing that; we back to square one. So like a fellow commentator says, get involved to be a solution to the problem.

    March 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Mikey this is an Absolute National disgrace. Get temp. help & process these claims. NO more excuses, Just "Do It"! These deserving people are suffering unnecessarily.

      March 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Reply
    • Capt Chuck

      Its cowards and unethical peiople like you who work for the VA that refuse to risk their jobs and retirement that allows the VA to continue treating veterans like cattle. If more of the people who work at the VA spoke up about the abuses then it would help. You come on here and insult veterans with your cute little speech that shows your into playing games and dont care about veterans care at all. Mentioning things you cant mention? Your the problem...your a great example of the VA at work. Smart alek comments,blame the veteran, hide the paperwork and above all dont go to your congressman and force us to do our work. That doesnt even happen anymore because the VA is now a cabnet post.

      March 20, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply
    • TankerGirl

      What if your salary stopped? How would you like to lose your family, home and car? How will you feed your children? The Homeless Veteran and Suicide rates have increased. This is because of you. You did this. It took me 9 years to get my diagnosis and so far it has been over 3 years waiting on your decision. Why is it so hard for you to look at my claim and then my diagnosis? How long does it take? A monkey could do a better job. How many claims do you process a day?

      August 5, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Reply
  75. American't

    Fight, die and be maimed for life for absolutely nothing, you poor misguided b@st@rds.

    March 14, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Reply
    • Lobo

      We Americans are willing to give all for freedom, even if it isn't our own freedom. American't, you need to go back from where ever it is that you climbed out from underneith a rock and enjoy your freedoms over there.

      March 15, 2013 at 12:50 am | Reply
  76. Jim DeVore

    On behalf of all the disabled vets from the Orlando area; I feel the need to speak out about this national disgrace. At the Orlando Medical Center, the situation is beyond belief? The parking lots are so filled up, if you have an appointment after 7 AM, you can not find a parking space. As an 100% disabled veteran, I am asking, why has the VA Hospital not opened yet? It was promised to us for years now and no end in sight for us to be able to use it.

    Finally, I know of a disabled veteran with two Purple Hearts, obviously in great pain. He has been waiting for benefits for over 7 years! This is intolerable and I believe others have waited for almost that long for their benefits. That said, the administration must cut through all this red tape, it is choking these vets in many ways.

    Please do something about this. These poor veterans deserve to receive these benefits the most. How are they and their families going to exist and feed their families? Kick them out in the streets to add to the growing number of homeless vets? If the government can not provide medical benefits to the very servicemen that answered America's call for duty, what happens when the government declares another war and no one volunteers? Sign me fed up!

    March 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Reply
    • Darryle Darryle

      Did you ever hear the promise "the check is in the mail or I'll be right over"? This is the promise our government gives to our injured veterans. After the Vietnam War we had about a 20 year gap of no war, let's try that again. The only way this will happen is to control our military industrial complex. Many young people join the military to begin a career, not to become maimed and be on the government disability paycheck. We have to stop the craziness for both our American youth and the future of our nation. It seems we are killing off the good and the smart, what we will have left are the gang members and the drug users. Stop the madness!

      March 19, 2013 at 10:18 am | Reply
    • alexisjb

      I feel you, I truly feel you. My father was a Vietnam vet and served in Thailand. He was exposed to agent orange which in the end killed him with three types of cancer. We have been waiting over eight years with evidence, doctors reports, maps, other soliders responses as well and still we are being denied, and when we appealed we have no idea when they are going to get back to us. Its been three years since we have heard back from the BVA. Its outrageous that these people and families suffer more in country out of war more so sometimes than in war. Families as much as the vets are suffering and the wait is killing more so than the battle. I am out of the Tampa area and we too are waiting. Waiting for far too long.

      March 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Reply
  77. seagle

    After submitting form after form (about a dozen), it takes about a year for a veteran to get sme kind of answer and then maybe no answer at all. I blame the Congressmen who are on veterans committees who don't follow up when asked to intercede. Yet, they want your vote.

    March 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  78. Bill

    And it is going to amplify another 2000% when sequestration kicks into full steam on 22 April. Congress has reduced funding, which ends up with further reductions in staffing and getting anything done. This past August A Russian Attack Sub with nuclear warheads patrolled the US Southern Coastline in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas for a little over a month and was not detected until after it left the Gulfcoast. The Navy has been cut down and it is worse now. It will really be affected by present layoffs of temporary and part time workers and the departure of seniors for retirement and not being replaced for past eight years. The furloughs will be interesting to, what a time to hit our country with terrorist or military attacks. All this news is on the internet. Are we going to be a sleeping giant again. Make sure to blame all your representatives, not just the president.

    March 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  79. afspouse

    Based on the numbers in this article, I guess some veterans are completely falling through the cracks. My husband spent a 365-day tour in Basra and another 3-month stint to another location in Iraq before retiring. We still have not been able to get a status on his VA claim. In April, we will be going on 3 years with no indications other than they have his package. If anyone wants to provide a contact person or phone number other than the 800 number to VA, we would be most appreciative. Everyone told us to try going through a politician and that did not gain us any ground either. I suppose we will keep playing the waiting game and hope someday they review his package. PTSD is an ugly thing along with other ailments from active duty.

    March 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Reply
    • ncyankee

      So sorrry y'all are having this problem, THANK YOU for your service. Try going to your local DAV office. they are great for helping vets. I did, they helped me sure to have your case number, social sec number, medical files, etc. the DAV office will help. GOOD LUCK

      March 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Reply
    • parker

      I agree with ncyankee, DAV is a great resource. When I retired, I was hearing horror stories from other retirees about 1-2 years to get their benefits, I started recieving my benifits in just a few months with the helpo of the DAV. This may no be the case every time, but any chance to shorten that wait time....

      March 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Reply
    • Jenifer

      We had a battle with VA benefits recently. My husbands claim was over 4 years old. We reached out to our local DAV who did absolutley nothing for us except lose all the paperwork. We contacted our state rep and had to sent a letter as to what was going on... 1 week later we received a letter from the DAV stating that since we had the state rep involved they fast tracked the claim. His claim was finally completed 2 weeks later. Hang in there and keep pushing!

      March 14, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Reply
      • afspouse

        We contacted a state rep and he followed through for us and in return we got a letter from the VA telling us they have our claim and we are in line to be reviewed. That was before Christmas and we have not heard anything since. The online status hasn't changed either. What is the DAV?

        March 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  80. Name*mike

    Never posted here before, @patriot, I understand your frustration, but no where in your rant did you offer any CONSTRUCTIVE ideas to the problem at hand. Yes we have been used as pawns for a long time, and those that send/sent us in harms way are never held accountable, but I see no relativity of race here. This is not a racial issue here, this is a failure of our own making. We have the ability to take the power back, yet were so apathetic that nothing is accomplished. Instead of ranting from your computer desk (this goes for all) get on the phone, write letters, involve yourselves in the government. Take the power back!

    March 14, 2013 at 10:44 am | Reply
  81. jimstaro

    Iraq War 10-Year Anniversary: 19 March – Done 'In Our Names'!!
    After abandoning the main missions, and world help, for why we even sent the military into that region!!

    “We are dealing with veterans, not procedures—with their problems, not ours.” —General Omar Bradley, First Administrator of the Veterans Administration

    "If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too — not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

    "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." – Abraham Lincoln

    No Revenues = Still No Sacrifice = That's Called 'Support' For The Troops = DeJa-Vu all over again!!
    Neither war nor especially the results of, decades to come added to previous decades and wars of, have been paid for as the abandoned, and now forgotten, continues as those sent want in a drawdown to accomplish at least a very small portion of those main missions sent to accomplish!!

    USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

    March 14, 2013 at 10:44 am | Reply
  82. Bangash

    In the interest of universal human race and welfare of those in America, USA must change and spend American money on American welfare. It is indeed stupid that USA has a lot of money for wars abroad but nothing for their veterans at home.

    March 14, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply
  83. Striker

    I think for the Natiional Guardsmen and the reservest of all branches of the armed forces shouldnt have to wait so long because sure there not serving full time, but they still depoly when they are called to duty.

    March 14, 2013 at 9:54 am | Reply
  84. Jeff Eastman

    There's a website, PTSDSTRESS.COM that has an anonymous interactive computer program that reduces the symptoms of PTSD for the user. Developed in part by an NIH PTSD researcher/ doctor, the site uses eye movement. It's confidential, costs $10 per session and accepts credit cards but does not require a cardholder name adding further confidentiality. It has been used by military and non-military for over 4 years. “A veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes.” Mother Jones.

    March 14, 2013 at 2:20 am | Reply
  85. patriot

    white soldiers are being bled to death by Jewish bankers. this is not an ideological battle of left vs right, GOP vs Dems, Socialism vs liberty. This is ethnic warfare against white people.

    Why are hostile globalist elite supporting Israel as a Jewish ethnostate with Jewish only immigration, but turning white majority Europe, North America into a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Gulag with dystopian non-White colonization?

    Why do gullible Whites kowtow to hostile Jewish & crypto-Jewish elite, who butcher White soldiers in bankrupting wars, infiltrate & subvert our banks & intelligence agencies, indoctrinate us in classrooms & mass media, impose trillions in debt, & plunder our jobs & wages?

    East Asia is 99% yellow. Africa is 99% Black. West Asia is 99% Brown. But 3rd world colonizers are annihilating Whites, like Chinese colonizers are annihilating Tibet. That's the endgame.

    "Native" Americans are not native. They invaded from East Asia. Whites weren't the only slave owners, imperialists. Muslims, Jews, China, India, Mayans, Africans all are guilty of slavery, imperialism. Whites were victims of Islamic, Jewish, African imperialism, slavery.

    Gullible Whites should reject suicidal anti-White Jewish ideologies like libertarianism, feminism, liberalism, socialism. White people should reject hostile slanders of racism, collectivism.

    Love to all, hatred to no one, but White people must unite & organize to advance their families, their fertility, their interests. Reading list:

    March 14, 2013 at 1:24 am | Reply
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