Senators urge Obama to help resolve veterans claims backlog

April 29, 2013
President Obama greets members of the military during a ceremony to welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House on April 17. (Carolyn Kaster/AP).
President Obama greets members of the military during a ceremony to welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House on April 17. (Carolyn Kaster/AP).

A letter signed by a bipartisan group of 67 senators was sent to the White House Monday urging President Obama to take direct action in resolving the backlog of veterans disability claims.

“We need direct and public involvement from you to establish a clear plan to end the backlog once and for all,” states the letter to Obama, which was put together by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Dean Heller, (R-Nev.) and signed by more than two-thirds of Senate members.

The number of disability claims pending with the Department of Veterans Affairs is nearly 900,000, with more than 600,000 in the system for more than 125 days.

The letter noted that the number of pending claims has grown by over 2,000 percent in the last four years despite a 40 percent increase in the VA’s budget over that time.

Veterans in some VA regional offices, including Baltimore, can wait a year or more to have their claims resolved

“Our veterans now need to hear from the President about how he plans to bring the number of veterans in the backlog to zero,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which has called for the appointment of a presidential commission to examine the issue.


White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough

Other veterans groups, including Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, oppose the creation of a commission, saying that the issue has been studied enough and that more action and fewer words are needed.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told reporters this month that Obama has made clearing out the backlog an administration priority. “Nobody is going to be more impatient about this than the guy we’re reporting to on a regular basis . . . the president,” he added.

Steve Vogel is a reporter for the national staff of The Washington Post who covers the federal government and frequently writes about the military and veterans.
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Steve Vogel | April 29, 2013