Washington, DC— Senator Brian Schatz joined Senators Robert Casey (PA), Dean Heller (NV) and a group of bipartisan Senators in sending a letter to President Obama urging him to take direct action in ending the current Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog. The number of pending claims at the VA has increased 2000% in the last year despite a 40% increase in the VA’s budget. More than 600,000 veterans are stuck in the VA’s disability claims backlog.
The letter asks that President Obama and his administration find a solution so that veterans are no longer forced to wait, sometimes over a year, for their disability claims decision from the VA.
“Having our nation’s veterans wait an average of over 300 days to have their disability claim resolved is simply unacceptable. The Veterans Administration has an obligation to meet the reasonable expectations of these men and women who have served our country,” said Senator Robert Casey. “There is strong, bipartisan support for clearing the backlog and I encourage the President to get directly involved in addressing this critical issue.”
“Our disabled veterans continue to carry the burden of their service, and the increasing backlog of their benefits is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “We owe it to our veterans to ensure that they have the compensation they deserve without delay and the support they need to achieve the highest level of function possible. These brave men and women put themselves in harm’s way to defend our nation, and now we must keep up our end of the bargain and help them get back to fulfilling their hopes and aspirations.”
Senator Schatz’s Honolulu staff will receive a full briefing from the VA’s Director of Benefits and the Director of Health Care in Honolulu to discuss the reasons for the backlog locally and what can be done to improve the response time.
In addition to Senators Casey and Heller, the following Senators signed the letter: Mark Warner, Kirsten Gillibrand, Angus King, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Donnelly, Jeff Flake, Rand Paul, James Risch, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Pat Toomey, Roy Blunt, Tammy Baldwin, Saxby Chambliss, Michael Enzi, Jerry Moran, Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell, Mark Begich, Johnny Isakson, John Boozman, Jeff Merkley, Maria Cantwell, Dianne Feinstein, Marco Rubio, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts, Frank Lautenberg, Debbie Stabenow, Tom Carper, David Vitter, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Kirk, Robert Menendez, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jay Rockefeller, Claire McCaskill, John Cornyn, Ben Cardin, Chris Murphy, Mazie Hirono, Ted Cruz, Thad Cochran , Ron Wyden, Mike Crapo, Roger Wicker, Mark Pryor, John Thune, Kay Hagan, Susan Collins, Heidi Heitkamp, Tom Harkin, Brian Schatz, Bill Nelson, Dick Durbin, Lisa Murkowski, Jon Tester , Richard Blumenthal, Joe Manchin, Harry Reid, Tim Kaine, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte and Tim Scott.
The full text of the Senators’ letter can be seen below.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to request that you take direct action and involvement in ending the current Department of Veterans Affairs (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.