U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's visit to Connecticut earlier this month to promote his new all-automated claims processing system was just so much "blah, blah, blah," according to one unimpressed Vietnam vet.
Who can blame veterans for being cynical about a public-relations tour by the brass, considering the long waits — months and even years — many have had to endure to get their disability claims processed, payments started, appeals heard?
Connecticut veterans have had to wait an average of 213 days for compensation. Nationally, more than 600,000 veterans are waiting in line to have their claims processed — and they are waiting an average of a whopping 299 days.
The nation owes its veterans better than this.
The VA has been saddled with an archaic paper-based record system that slowed things down. It is being replaced in Connecticut and elsewhere.
But the volume of cases has spiraled out of control because of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More wars, more disabled vets. Also, today's veterans are facing a more complex constellation of combat-related medical and psychological conditions. More lives are being saved on the battlefield because of advances in medical care, but more veterans are coming home damaged for life.
Much of the stress on system should have been anticipated and their modernization started earlier. The blame can be spread across several administrations.
Gen. Shinseki has a troops-first reputation. In keeping with that, he's promised to have the all-automated claims system fully in place in Connecticut by the end of the year and the backlog eliminated nationally by 2015. The goal is to ensure that no veteran has to wait more than 125 days for a claim to be processed.
It's good that Gen. Shinseki has made modernizing the system a high priority. It's just too bad for many psychologically and physically damaged vets that it's taken so long.Copyright © 2015, CT Now