Letter to the editor

Veterans deserve better than claims backlog

April 26, 2013 

Re April 20 article by Chris Adams, “Battling backlog, VA to speed decisions on some disability claims”

In the article, an interview of Allison Hickey, the VA’s undersecretary for benefits, revealed that the VA has now over 1 million incoming claims a year. Those claims, along with pending claims dating back as far as and including World War II, Korea, Vietnam and recently from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, have not been getting the deserved service from the Department of Veterans Affairs needed to resolve them timely or judiciously.

I am familiar with a claim dating back to 1951 from Korea that has been on appeal from 1974 that is still pending with no hope in sight for a resolution until now maybe. This veteran has suffered both physically and mentally for over 60 years without full closure. Any red blooded American would agree that this is not right nor part of our country’s heritage.

It appears the VA tries to look after our protective force, our veterans in all branches of the military services, but to ignore their complaints after offering their lives for our defense and freedom is tantamount to forgetting them when they return from combat duty. I am sure there are other stories out there similar to this one. In a recent “60 Minutes” broadcast on CBS television it was revealed that the VA technically drags its feet so that those old pending claimants will just die and their claims will then go away.

This is not the USA that I know and something needs to be done about this negative attitude.

If this country decides to ever declare war again then Congress must establish two things up front as part of the war vote: Fund the war effort and fund the end game of war, that is make sure that our veterans are covered during and after the war, whatever the cost. This should mean furnishing the military member with proper equipment in advance of combat which would protect and limit harm and manning the VA with sufficient support to administer the claims and appeals upon their return.

As an over 35 year military member, a Navy JAG Captain, I abhor foot dragging as bad as command influence. In the past the command did not want the JAG knowing what was going on in advance. But nowadays the JAG is a part of the advance intelligence to conform to the rules of engagement of war. However, with the deception after 9/11 by the White House as to weapons of mass destruction we have backtracked leaving us with two wars and returning injured combat veterans that we still don’t know how we are going to pay for.

To delay these veterans’ claims and appeals is un-American. I salute the VA undersecretary for benefits and hope that she shall succeed by 2015 to have the VA back on track by then to be able to meet its goals. She advises that recent changes in the regional offices will accomplish this as the most recent numbers show that over 800,000 claims are now awaiting decisions and the VA will work on the oldest claims first.

Some disability claims getting the speed-up treatment by the VA may have been the result of the exposure by “60 Minutes” of the oldest cases treatment and leading up to the news conference last Friday and as it should be. Now I offer my kudos to McClatchy Newspapers and to the CBS television coverage in accomplishing and covering this news conference with reporters by Allison Hickey, the VA undersecretary of benefits showing the governments attempt to finally do the right thing by its oldest living veterans and their VA claims or appeals.

The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.

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