Local Veterans Face Long Waits for VA Benefits


Returning veterans are now facing a new enemy at home—long wait times for their disability claims.

The waiting times started increasing in 2010 when U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq causing a dramatic uptick in first-time filers, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting

The data found that in most regional VA offices, not only did waiting times increase, but they vary dramatically with location: about 508 days in Baltimore, Maryland and 134 days in Fargo, North Dakota. The national average now stands at about 11 months, which is dramatically higher than in 2009 when it was 116 days.

Claims sent to the VA’s Boston office take on average 411.6 days to process a disability claim. That’s more than 13 months before the average claimant gets a decision. 

The backlog has also partly been blamed on the VA still using paper to process their claims. In 2011, the Department started implementing a computerized system in several of its regional offices. However, despite spending $ 537 million on the new program and employing 3,300 claims processors, 97 percent of veterans’ claims are still on paper.

Still, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki pledged back in March that the VA will end the enormous backlog by 2015.

While Memorial Day, which is celebrated this Monday, is officially a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, in practice it’s often a day to recognize living veterans locally. 

The data above was obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and is updated weekly. 

South End Patch