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The Department of Veterans Affairs' promise to end by 2015 its massive, benefits backlog for disabled veterans has "stalled," according to an analysis released Monday by a leading veterans' organization.
After slicing its glut of pending claims from a peak of 600,000 cases in March 2013 to 400,000 in November, the VA has been unable to budge below that threshold this year, according to "The Red Tape Report," authored by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Consequently, hundreds of thousands of veterans who were permanently disabled or made ill by their military service are waiting months for their compensation checks to arrive to help pay bills and, in some cases, to buy food. Some of those veterans are physically unable to hold jobs.
“In the State of the Union address, President (Barack) Obama re-affirmed the VA disability claims backlog as a national priority,” said Jacqueline Maffucci, IAVA's research director and author of the report. “... It is not just about bringing the backlog to zero, but keeping it there."
In addition to those 400,000 ex-service members with backlogged claims, another 265,000 veterans have filed appeals with the VA, asserting their disability benefits were erroneously denied or cut, the report states.
"No veteran should have to wait for benefits they've earned and deserve," said Victoria Dillon, a spokeswoman for the VA. "We are executing an aggressive plan to fix this decades-old problem and end the backlog in 2015. We have made strong progress, and we know there is more work to do."
The VA partially decreased the backlog through a mandatory overtime program instituted during 2013, the IAVA report found, noting, however, that adding extra hours onto VA employees is not a sustainable solution.