SHAHEEN, AYOTTE CALL ON WHITE HOUSE TO TAKE ACTION ON VETERANS DISABILITY BACKLOG
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today joined a broad, bipartisan coalition of senators in calling upon the White House to take direct and urgent action to end the current Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog. In the letter sent this morning to President Obama, the senators pointed to the unacceptable delays veterans are facing across the country, which in some cases reach more than 1000 days.
More than 600,000 veterans are still stuck in the VA’s disability claims backlog, and the number of claims pending has grown by over 2000% over the past four years. The average wait time for first time disability claims currently stands at between 316 and 327 days.
“Our men and women in uniform have made tremendous sacrifices for our country, and they should not have to spend months fighting an unresponsive bureaucracy to receive the benefits they have earned,” said Shaheen and Ayotte. “We can and must do better, and we will aggressively push the VA to resolve the unacceptable disability claims backlog.”
Shaheen and Ayotte, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have worked to advocate for veterans and make sure they receive the benefits and protections they deserve. Shaheen worked to exempt veterans’ healthcare benefits from sequester cuts and has led efforts on the VOW to Hire Heroes Act and Veterans Jobs Corps Act, two pieces of legislation designed to help veterans find good-paying jobs after they complete their service. Ayotte recently raised the backlog issue during a Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing with senior Pentagon officials. At a Budget Committee hearing last week, Ayotte also pressed VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and other senior VA officials to provide better health care to veterans living in New Hampshire’s North Country.
The full text of the letter sent today is below:
April 29, 2013
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to request that you take direct action and involvement in ending the current Veterans’ Administration (VA) disability claims backlog.
After a decade of war, and despite the VA’s efforts to modernize, more than 600,000 veterans are still stuck in the VA’s disability claims backlog. While the average wait time for first time disability claims currently ranges between 316 and 327 days, veterans in certain parts of the country are waiting even longer – 681 days in Reno, 642 in New York, 625 in Pittsburgh, 619 in Los Angeles, 612 in Indianapolis, 586 in Houston, and 510 in Philadelphia. In the worst cases, veterans have waited and continue to wait 800 days, 900 days, and even more than 1000 days for a disability claims decision from the VA.
In the last four years, the number of claims pending for over a year has grown by over 2000%, despite a 40% increase in the VA’s budget. As a reminder, during this same time period, Congress has given VA everything it has asked for in terms of more funding and more employees; however, this has not eliminated the backlog of claims. Solving this problem is critical for veterans of all generations. We need direct and public involvement from you to establish a clear plan to end the backlog once and for all.
This country must be grateful for the safe homecoming of every single man and woman who has served in harm’s way. Our joy at their return must be reflected in our commitment to helping all who have served. We respectfully ask you and your administration to find a solution that ensures that no veterans are stuck in the VA backlog.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Robert Casey (D-PA); Dean Heller (R-NV); Mark Warner (D-VA); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Mark Begich (D-AK); Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Roy Blunt (R-MO); John Boozman (R-AR); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Ben Cardin (D-MD); Tom Carper (D-DE); Saxby Chambliss (R-GA); Thad Cochran (R-MS); Susan Collins (R-ME); John Cornyn (R-TX); Mike Crapo (R-ID); Ted Cruz (R-TX); Joe Donnelly (D-IN); Richard Durbin (D-IL); Mike Enzi (R-WY); Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); Jeff Flake (R-AZ); Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Chuck Grassley (R-IA); Kay Hagan (D-NC); Tom Harkin (D-IA); Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND); Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Johnny Isackson (R-GA); Tim Kaine (D-VA); Angus King (I-ME); Mark Kirk (R-IL); Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Joe Manchin (D-WV); John McCain (R-AZ); Claire McCaskill (D-MO); Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Jerry Moran (R-KS); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); Christopher Murphy (D-CT); Bill Nelson (D-FL); Rand Paul (R-KY); Rob Portman (R-OH); Mark Pryor (D-AR); Harry Reid (D-NV); James Risch (R-ID); Pat Roberts (R-KS); Jay Rockefeller (D-WV); Marco Rubio (R-FL); Brian Schatz (D-HI); Tim Scott (R-SC) Jeff Sessions (R-AL); Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); John Tester (D-MT); John Thune (R-SD); Pat Toomey (R-PA); David Vitter (R-LA); Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Roger Wicker (R-MS); Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Press Office, (202) 224-5553