Patt Morrison for August 31, 2012

California has some of the worst response times for veterans’ benefit claims

Service Dogs Aid War Veterans Upon Return To U.S.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Andrew Pike, a veteran of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne who was shot and paralyzed during the Iraq war, looks on as his new service dog "Yazmin" pulls a door open while training at the Canine Companions for Independence training center November 20, 2009 in Santa Rosa, California. Andrew Pike, 23, was instantly paralyzed in 2007 when he was shot by sniper fire while on patrol in Iraq.

Disabled United States veterans in metropolitan areas face some of the longest response times in the country for decisions on war-related disability claims.

An investigation by The Bay Citizen and the Center for Investigative Reporting recently revealed that while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs takes an average of eight months nationally to respond to a claim, in cities like New York, most veterans wait a year or longer. Here in California, wait time averages more than nine months, with the administrations in San Diego and Los Angeles vying for the title of ‘longest to respond.'

See a map showing the wait times in L.A., California and the rest of the nation here.

For comparison, it takes the V.A. in South Dakota an average of less than six months to respond to a claim. Since 2012, the V.A. has seen the number of new claims filed annually increase by 48%, but the number of claims representatives has only increased by five percent.

STATEMENT FROM THE VA:

"VA has completed a record-breaking 1 million claims per year the last two fiscal years, and we are on target to complete another 1 million claims in 2012. Yet too many Veterans have to wait too long to get the benefits they have earned and deserve. That’s unacceptable, and VA is building a strong foundation for a paperless, digital disability claims system – a lasting solution that will transform how we operate and eliminate the claims backlog. This paperless technology is being deployed to 16 regional offices in 2012, and it will reach all 56 VA Regional Offices by the end of 2013 to help deliver faster, better decisions for Veterans.

This plan will ensure we achieve the Secretary’s goal– claim completion in 125 days with 98% accuracy in 2015. Fixing this decades-old problem isn’t easy, but we have an aggressive plan that is on track to succeed.”

Guest:

Aaron Glantz, reporter at the Center for Investigative Reporting

Stephanie Stone, US Navy Veteran; on the Los Angeles Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs (advisory to the County Supervisors); works with Goodwill of Southern California supporting veterans


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