Monday, March 25, 2013

VA Backlog of claims is not new

VA Backlog of claims is not new
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
March 25, 2013

Am I happy with the backlog of claims? No because I know what it is like when they have to wait for the VA to get to them and have their claims approved. I know because it took the VA six years to approve my husband's claim. Six years? Yes. Six years of waiting, fighting, suffering and doubting they would ever honor his claim. What made it worse was when he came home he had the same attitude his Dad did. The VA is for guys that can't work and had their legs blown off." So for years, he refused to even consider filing a claim. Every time the mail came from the VA with another letter telling us his claim was denied was like a knife in his back. Hope was slipping away with each bill we couldn't pay and one of them was for his treatment at the VA because he had received care for a "non-service connected" illness. The non-service connected illness was PTSD caused by his service to this country in a war zone.

Even with all of this, while most are slamming the VA for the backlog of claims, I will not.

The headlines for the last couple of years have all been about the backlog but there is so much more to this than the press will talk about and that is a great injustice to all of our veterans.

This quote is at the bottom of my emails.
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, is directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated" -- George Washington
Are they living up to it? No but listen to Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki then read the rest of the story CNN didn't talk about.
March 24th, 2013
Secy. Shinseki to CNN: "No veteran should have to wait for claims as they are today. We have a fix for this, we're open for business, and we will end the backlog in 2015."

Veterans in the last four years, Candy, have joined us in unprecedented numbers. There are 800 more veterans enrolled today than were enrolled four years ago in health care. 940,000 more veterans enrolled for benefits than there were four years ago. So, the fact is that veterans are coming to us, and they are being enrolled. We produce a million claims decisions each year going out the door and have for the last three years. And so, when we talk about an inventory of claims today, of about 875,000 claims, of which about 600,000 are backlogged. Just the amount of work we put out the door indicates that this is not a static number. There are going to be a few who are complex enough to go longer than we’d like, but there is a lot of work being done.
read more here

When my husband's claim was filed, George H.W. Bush was President and Anthony Principi was Secretary of Veterans Affairs. It was 1993. Bill Clinton took over as Commander-in-Chief and Jesse Brown took over as head of Veterans Affairs. He was replaced by Hershel Gober until 1998 and he was replaced by Togo West when the letter finally came saying my husband's claim had been approved for 50% and we would receive a pro-rated check going back to when he filed the claim in 1993. By the time he finally received 100% disability, George W. Bush had replaced Clinton and Anthony Principi was back as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Three Presidents since he filed his claim but Richard Nixon was President when he was sent to Vietnam. Gerald Ford was in the chair as Vietnam veterans came home vilified and ignored, told to get over it as they tried to do that and it was not until Jimmy Ford had come and gone and Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981 that true research had begun on PTSD.
The National Center for PTSD was created in 1989 within the Department of Veterans Affairs in response to a Congressional mandate (PL 98-528) to address the needs of Veterans and other trauma survivors with PTSD. The Center was developed with the ultimate purpose to improve the well-being, status, and understanding of Veterans in American society. The mandate called for a center of excellence that would set the agenda for research and education on PTSD without direct responsibility for patient care. Convinced that no single VA site could adequately serve this unique mission, VA established the Center as a consortium of five divisions. The Center currently consists of seven VA academic centers of excellence across the U.S., with headquarters in White River Junction, VT. Other divisions are located in Boston, MA; West Haven, CT; Palo Alto, CA; and Honolulu, HI.

That is how long the VA has been working on PTSD. But you have to be aware that far too many Vietnam Veterans had their PTSD claims rejected until 2010
Under the new rules a veteran need show only that he or she served in a war and performed a job during which events could have happened that could cause the disorder.

"... for years, many veterans with PTSD who have tried to seek benefits -- veterans of today's wars and earlier wars -- have often found themselves stymied. They've been required to produce evidence proving that a specific event caused their PTSD. And that practice has kept the vast majority of those with PTSD who served in non-combat roles, but who still waged war, from getting the care they need," Obama said.

"Well, I don't think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. And I've met enough veterans to know that you don't have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war. So we're changing the way things are done."
The price was estimated to be $5 billion.

So the VA had Vietnam veterans, joining Gulf War veterans, joining Afghanistan veterans, joining Iraq veterans standing in line for what their service to this country caused. That is how we ended up in this massive backlog but again, it wasn't the first time claims waiting had reached the close to a million mark.
Veterans Benefits Administration and the Board of Veterans Appeals at VA, was 803,000 on Jan. 5, 2009. The backlog hit 915,000 on May 4, 2009, a staggering 14-percent increase in four months."

Are we living up to what George Washington said? No but as you can see, we haven't done that in a very, very long time. It would serve veterans better if reporters actually addressed what has been going on all these years so that we don't keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.