Editorial: Time arrives for Obama to step in

Apr. 29, 2013 @ 07:36 PM

We agree with the 67 senators of both parties who signed a letter to the president Monday, asking Barack Obama to take action easing the backlog of disability claims for the Veterans Administration.

If anything, the request is late. Claims have surged while the U.S. has placed boots in foreign countries, engaged in combat, for more than a decade. Government, past and present, has played a role in us being there and now comes a segment of the end game, taking care of our veterans.

The request of the president comes even though a “transformation plan” is already under way. The plan is a series of people, process and technology initiatives designed to increase productivity and accuracy of disability claims processing, according to the VA website.

Once implemented, the backlog is expected to be reduced. The 2015 goal is elimination of all backlogs and processing all claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy.

There are 900,000 cases waiting currently, and 600,000 have been there more than 125 days, according to a Washington Post report.

According to Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat who signed the letter, 65,000 veterans in North Carolina are among those waiting. And the average wait currently is 365 days, up from 329 in September, at the Winston-Salem VA office.

Sadly, that’s not even the longest wait in the agency’s southern region.

According to the letter to the president, the VA budget has been increased 40 percent at the VA’s request for funding and more employees over the last four years. At the same time, those waiting more than a year for pending claims has increased 2,000 percent.

The worst-case scenarios have included waits of more than 1,000 days. The average wait for first-time disability claims has also included staggering numbers: 510 days in Philadelphia, 586 in Houston, 612 in Indianapolis, 619 in Los Angeles, 625 in Pittsburgh, 642 in New York and 681 in Reno.

The VA has a tough job. It has gone through 1 million claims each of the last three years.

But our veterans have gone through more, especially those who have become disabled. Our veterans deserve quicker response.