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August 21st, 2009
10:10 AM ET

The War at Home: 400,000 VA claims backlogged

They're coming home from the front lines – in need of help from the government they fought to defend – and they're stuck, in a sea of red tape.

In our special series "The War at Home," our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr looks at the backlog of claims at Veterans Affairs that has left hundreds of thousands of vets in limbo.

Filed under: Military • The War at Home
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Charlotte

    You know when you think about it, By giving back to these vets, they get to give back to the economy.. Disabled veterans rent or buy homes, buy groceries and buy goods just like everyone else. By The government keeping their promises and helping the veterans get back on their feet so they can pay their bills, and not at risk of being in homeless shelters or sick. Our country owes the soldiers that made that choice so the civilians did not have to. Thank you for your service!

    February 19, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  2. Tom

    The only difference between the VA and a bucket of crap is the bucket. I'm a retired Vietnam Vet with twenty years in the military. I've been fighting with the sob's since 1979. Yeah, just how many agent orange vets have died of heart problems/ I've had four bypasses already.

    October 2, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  3. John

    Update on my VA claim. I was told a week ago by my VSO that my case was awaiting rating and there was nothing else the VA needed for my case. I get a letter in the mail Friday that they want me to do to another compensation and pension appointment. For the same reasons I went to one earlier this year and twice last year. I called my VSO and he said he had no idea that they were going to schedule another C&P exam. This is the forth one I have had to go to for the same things. I don't know why they are keep making me return and do these exams over and over again but they do. The appointment is not until October so that is just more time to waste so they don't have to make up their mind what they are going to do. I am so aggravated at the moment. Oh, and when you go to one of these exams they toss your file back to the bottom of the stack of files they have from people that just submitted there claims so ill probably be waiting at the least another six months for sure to see what else they can try and come up with to keep me in the loop.

    August 30, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  4. James M. McElfresh II

    Fellow Vets get angry, never give up, keep appealing, contact your congressman or woman and Senators get them involved. Remeber they work for us, we elected them we can fire them.
    The VA hates when congressmen and women pull a VA congressional investigation they fear them! I have used them many a time with great results.

    August 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  5. Vicki

    I'm tired of my husband waking up in panics, being depressed, being angry, being filled with anxiety, not being able to be around other people, suffering from nightmares, not being able to get sleep. How many psychiatrists does he have to see that say he is suffering from PTSD before the VA is satisfied? How many aortic artery aneuryms does he have to live through before they start blaming Agent Orange. How many helo trips, stripped of his tags, did he have to take into Cambodia thinking he was going to die, before they realize there's a problem??? And please don't keep telling me we weren't in Cambodia– none of us are blithering idiots. And the VA has the audacity to say my husband's lived 3-4 years longer than they thought he would. Well VA. He's a fighter and so am I and we're going to keep fighting you until you get real and get honest!!!

    August 28, 2009 at 9:51 am |
  6. Vicki

    Well... like I said on August 22nd, the vets are forgotten. My husband, a disabled Vietnam Vet was just (Aug. 26) denied AGAIN!! I really believe that there is NO MONEY for any vet. The VA just sends you the same forms over and over, then denies you over and over hoping that you will either give up, finally die or go so crazy trying to fight the system that you finally commit suicide. Then they don't have to fake it for you anymore... making you believe that there may be hope. The figures on veteran suicides is extreme and so sad. My husband was spit on when he came home just for doing his duty to his country. Now his own government is still spitting on him and has been for years. And don't think you'll get any of the information you request about your time in service. It all magically disappears. Like CNN's report on records being shredded. The reasons the VA gave for his being denied again were sickening. It's the same ole Catch 22. And they lie through their teeth. Their own Section 3.102 states, "When... a reasonable doubt arises regarding service origin, the degree of disability, or any other point, such doubt will be resolved IN FAVOR of the claimant." DON'T BELIEVE THAT ONE. Everything you can find on your own and send to them will be disregarded; suffice it to say, the VA never explains WHY your information has been disregarded and then your claim denied. We are now going to find an attorney. And we have written and e-mailed every Congressman/woman, Senator, Governor, etc., etc., to get answers to the main question "WHY??" I will keep you up to date on any answers we receive, but I'm not holding my breath and my husband isn't going to commit suicide like they're hoping for. This has been going on for over 12 years and we refuse to see him get treated like so much throw away garbage. I think CNN or SOMEONE needs to get some of these guys together on television so as to become REAL PEOPLE, not just statistics. This is so so sad. Money going to aliens, money going to other countries, yet our own men are spit on and forgotten. I'm starting to question what makes this government any better than any other? When they lie and cheat, they just do it better than the others, that's all. They want my husband to give up hope, BUT WE WON'T. "President Obama, these are your men. Men who fought for you even when you were just a kid. Where is the help for them now??. They can't live on spit alone!!"

    August 28, 2009 at 9:40 am |
  7. Kristin Stahl

    Government health care sounds great! Sign us up.

    And then, let's nationalize something even more important: pizza. Let's take all these wasteful competing pizza joints and corrupt pizza chains (Big Pizza) and replace them with a government pizza system. If you like government health care, you'll love government pizza.

    August 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  8. Roland Roberts

    How could VA employees possibly deserve the millions in bonuses this year with 4000,000 applicants awaiting approval? They should be fired for not doing their job....Certainly not rewarded for a job not done. Our nation is being turned upside down by our leaders. I fear for my country.

    August 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  9. DaveM

    It is truly obscene that this country cannot take care of its returning vets. It's almost like, once you come back, your on your own. God help you if you actually need medical or psychological help! The military is too busy spending vast sums of money on no-bid, dead-end projects than to take care of the people who risked their lives going wherever they were told.

    August 23, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  10. RD Pennsylvania

    It's sad and frustrating for the vets and families that are waiting for the VA disability claims. The wait has been over 6 months for my husband who's a disabled VET and he gets red tape every time he calls to find out about his claim. From what I've read, there are thousands that have been waiting longer. I wrote our congressman after reading the CNN article today. Everyone this affects needs to contact their representatives. Go online and find their website, send and email, letter or call. I know the lawmakers are aware of this issue as I heard Arlen Spector mention it on a broadcast of a town hall meeting recently (he mentioned the backlog of claims).
    I love my country but the bureaucracy on this issue is getting out of hand. Now, there's going to be an investigation? Will that backlog the claims even more? I'll always be proud of the my husband and the vets that fought for our freedom. Now is the time for our government to step up and do the right thing. I agree with John on the other peace, it took a few months to bail out the big companies, let's support the men and women that make that freedom possible.

    August 22, 2009 at 5:35 pm |
  11. Vicki

    The Vet's aren't backlogged, they're forgotten. My husband has been fighting for his VA benefits since returning from Vietnam. Beware... the VA Admin has a quota of files to read every month. If you have a large file with lots of information, and of course it's all information they've requested... you'll stay at the bottom of the pile forever. It's "fight for your country then be forgotten by them." My husband has been told they were surprised he's still trying, that he's lived 3 years longer than they thought he would. Wow... nice treatment. If you're presently in the service, get and keep a copy of EVERYTHING, because they will ask for it and if you don't have it you're fighting a long, hard battle (again, now that you're home). Don't give up. We're praying for all of you!!

    August 22, 2009 at 8:39 am |
  12. Margaret

    John, my prayers go out to you and your family and all of the Vets, as well as men and women who currently serve and their respective families. Has our government learned anything, from the past wars we've fought, especially Vietnam!!! I just read a news report whereby MILLIONS of dollars in bonus' were given to VA employee's, while the Vets that they are employed to serve are suffering!

    The Bush administration, for eight years, established "sweet deals" for Blackwater and the employee's of other such agencies, to earn six figures or more (at the tax payer's expense), while active duty soldiers families(the real heros) are reduced to welfare and food stamps to survive!! American PLEASE WAKE UP!! We need to have our Media and attention focused more on real issues! I don't want to here hours and hours of repeated news reels that glorify the frivolous life styles of so called "celebrities", who would rather throw away their "trust funds" and earnings on a dog house worth $375,000.00 dollars on a dog house, while millions of hard working, tax paying Americans have lost and continue to lose their homes and livelihood!!! We cannot and should make these individuals our primary focus. Nor continue to have a fixation on them and their life styles. The realization is, that no matter how hard you try to live your lives vicariously through them, it's never going to happen! We the public make or break these people. Why should an entertainer or athlete earn more than a soldier or school teacher!! Let's take a stance to focus on the real issues that affect our Nation!
    I'm just saying!!!

    August 22, 2009 at 8:23 am |
  13. Tiesha Grant

    This is ridiculous. We take so much pride in other things but we dont take care of our military. Stop all the politicing and do the right thing.

    August 22, 2009 at 2:08 am |
  14. Diane Thomas

    John, I have rarely heard anything good about how our veterans are cared for once they return home with injuries or PTSD or both. I try to keep up with what is going on with our soldiers and our veterans. I have written letters to a number of Senators over the years and some have bothered to send responses but overall I don't think Congress as a whole is all that responsive to Vets needs or the needs of our military. I hear a lot of positive words flowing out of there mouths and some of our Senators earnestly do stand up for our military men and women but it has to be unanimous and this also: the public has to push like a never ending battering ram to get the VA to adopt a system that works like the system that allowed the agricultural dept. to find a sick cow and her calves a year or so ago. If they can do that then the VA can indeed handle hundreds of thousands of vets who need help and need it in a hurry. I will phone both CA Senators aides who deal directly with Veterans' issues and just keep at it over and over and over. They will be sick of me. God Bless You John

    August 22, 2009 at 1:00 am |
  15. James M. McElfresh II

    As a veteran, as an accredited agent for VA claims, I can tell you the system is broke. I win veterans benefits because I go the extra yard, I write the letters for fellow vets I contact the congressmen, women and the Senators I do hour after hour of research. If the VA is not pushed they will not respond!

    If the organizations haven't got the time, they need to make the time.

    The problem is 95% of my references come from vets who are dis-satified with the DAV, VFW, American Legion etc. They dont return their calls, their records are lost, when a claim is settled good or bad, they're done with sad is that.

    I am open 6 days a week and Sunday for emergencies. The service organizations need to work harder and not heads to the golf course. They need to improve their bedside manner. The service orgainizations are paid win or lose for the veteran. Maybe they should only be paid if the veteran wins?


    August 22, 2009 at 12:07 am |
  16. pat

    There are some things going on that should not be. I know a friend that is collecting full disability and only got into Iraq one day and back to Kuwait, claims PTSD and drinking, he always had a drinking problem years before he left. My husband came back with a full heart blockage and was told he could not be helped unless he has another heart attack. Gee you have to almost die before you get help? I hear alot of workers got huge bonus'es working at the VA what's up with that? They need to do somthing and do it quick, sad our veterans have to come home to this. No place to go and get the help they need but were not afraid to serve to protect us. No wonder sucicide is up in the Military. There are vets that are worse off then someone who is collecting for being a drunk which he was when he left. It must depend on who does your paperwork. My husband served thirty years and no one cares about him. What about the one's who lost limbs etc. what are they suppose to do.

    August 21, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  17. John

    I live in Kentucky near Fort Campbell. I usually don't do the whole blog thing but hearing this news on the TV all the time just gets me frustrated. People need to hear these stories like mine. Maybe someone somewhere will read this and take notes. My situation is only a sentence from a much larger paragraph. It took the government a couple months to bail out everyone and their friends but the Soldiers that make all of this possible are told "were doing the best we can..." We are second string to this football team. Thank you for your support!

    August 21, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  18. willie1954

    This is one more example of what the Obama Administration has inherited from the most incompetant Presidency in the history of the U.S.
    I hope John's situation is remedied soon. We owe it to all veterans.

    August 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  19. janet

    NO one understand this process. Everything is triple the work they can possibly imagine. My father retired 36 years ago and JUST got approved. It's a very very sad system. I work in the military system for my father to try to make a difference....5 years so far...and not much has changed. I may be a bit jaded afterall. J

    August 21, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  20. Rodrick

    Wow, John,

    That is a terrible situation after serving your country and putting your life on the line (especially after reading about Cheney's Rent a mercenary Blackwater...).

    I hope you will get the help that you need to get back on your feet.

    What state are you in?

    August 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  21. John

    The VA is backlogged because the process in which your claim is filed and then reviewed on a board needs to be changed. Many veterans are not given a case manager and provided a primary care provider to handle the medical aspects of a veterans case through the VA. Which leaves the veteran hanging in confusion not knowing what needs to be done medically to help with their case. This is something some VSO's have no knowledge in and just write up cases not looking at your evidence and just submitting whatever is in your hands the first time you walk in their door. When I returned from Iraq I was seen by a psychiatrist about the mental and social problems that I was having including my marriage. They deemed me just fine and sent me on my way. One week later my wife left me with my six month old daughter and no one to help me support her, which eventually lead me to being discharged and having to recoup a $28,000 bonus I had received. One year later I was sitting in the mental ward at the VA hospital in Nashville,TN because I almost committed suicide from the stress, hyper-tension and insomnia I was having and no one to turn to. It took THAT for the VA to acknowledge that I had a problem and then were willing to help out. Before I was told since I did not have a rating there was nothing they could do for me. It is sad that it had to come to that before they did anything. I submitted a claim for my lower back, headaches and PTSD that was handled by a DAV. The DAV rep that I had was later fired for not doing his job which lead to my case not being handled by anyone because no one picked up my file when the employee left to include a change of address that I submitted that the VA never received and caused me to miss many appointments and my case closed. My claim was eventually reopened and denied because the "Evidence failed to show a diagnosis" for what I had claimed. It was the medical attention that I had recieved while I was in the military that lead to this decision. I thought I had a diagnosis for my back when I was in the military. Obviously this was not the case even though I had a P2 profile. I had to see a doctor through my personal insurance from my work to finally get the diagnosis that I should of received many years ago and had not. I spent thousands of dollars on doctor bills and had major back surgery. After all of this so many programs were put into my lap that help people find jobs and cope with the problems that many service members have no idea even exist. Even now that I have all of this evidence supporting my claim it has been almost two years now from when I was discharged and I am still waiting for a decision. My primary doctor through the VA told me that If I had come and seen him first before a rating on my claim was complete that the end result would of been much different and I would probably be receiving a check in the mail and the health care I deserve. Not to mention thousands of dollars out of my pocket that was spent in the process.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:46 am |