Veterans in 9 cities have to wait more than a year for claims to be addressed

December 16, 2013
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) questioned the VA's backlog at a hearing last week (Photo courtesy Office of Sen. Dean Heller)
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) questioned the VA’s backlog at a hearing last week (Office of Sen. Dean Heller)

Disabled veterans in Reno, Nev., have to wait an average of more than 14 months to have their claims addressed, according to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans in Baltimore wait more than 13 months for their disability claims to be resolved.

There are more than 693,000 claims pending before the VA, which means veterans have to wait hundreds of days. Records show more than half of claimants, 395,000 overall, have been waiting more than 125 days for their claims to be addressed.

For veterans in nine cities — Reno, Baltimore, Winston-Salem, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Chicago, Houston, Pittsburgh and St. Louis — the average wait tops a year. Veterans in another 23 cities face waits of more than 300 days, according to year-to-date statistics for claims the VA has handled in 2013.

At a hearing last week held by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) complained about the backlog.

“This is the longest wait in the nation,” Heller said of the wait times in Reno. “And it is simply unacceptable.”

The VA has seen its backlog of disability claims spike since October 2010, when the department added to its list of diseases caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

President Obama has made reducing the backlog a priority. Since March, the list of veterans waiting more than 125 days has fallen from 611,000 to 395,000 today.

Reno has a large backlog despite its relatively small population of veterans filing claims. About 6,600 Reno veterans are waiting to hear back from the department; that’s far less than the nearly 37,000 veterans with claims pending in Winston-Salem, 32,000 in Atlanta, 28,500 in Houston and 24,600 in the Seattle area.

The backlog is particularly acute in Baltimore, where 9,799 claims were pending as of last week. Almost 70 percent of the claims had been pending for more than 125 days, the report shows.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson · December 16, 2013