(Lindsay Wise, Houston Chronicle)
Despite more funding and staff at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the backlog of disability claims in Houston has more than doubled since this time three years ago.
More than 37,100 claims are pending at the Houston VA Regional Office, up from 17,537 in 2009. Veterans wait an average of 263 days for the office to process their claims, according to data obtained by the Houston Chronicle.
The Houston regional office is one of only two VA facilities in Texas that process veterans’ disability claims. The other office is in Waco, where the problem is even worse: More than 51,000 veterans face an average wait of 352 days for the Waco VA Regional Office to act on their claims.
“Nearly one-year delays in VA processing of veterans’ claims are intolerable,” said U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. “Such delays can have terrible effects on veterans and their families,” said Hutchison, who serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. “The men and women who have answered our nation’s call deserve better. It’s past time for the VA to fix these claims processing problems, which are delaying needed assistance to thousands of Texas veterans.”
The data also outraged veterans’ advocates, who say the long wait times renege on a promise made by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to “break the back of the backlog.” In 2010, Shinseki announced VA had set an ambitious goal: no claim pending for more than 125 days and a 98 percent accuracy rate. (Read the full story at the Houston Chronicle)
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