Senators tell Hagel that VA backlog is 'simply unacceptable'

“We represent states with some of the largest populations of veterans in the country,” the senators wrote. “Tragically, these men and women are also waiting years to access the benefits they need and deserve — 449 days on average in New York, 506 days in Los Angeles, and 439 days in Waco, according to VA. This is simply unacceptable.”

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The senators said that they believe some of the delay is caused because the Department of Defense takes too long to send military and medical records of the disabled veteran to the VA.

“We are concerned that lengthy delays by the Department of Defense in gathering and sharing military service records with VA are contributing to lengthy processing timeframes and, in turn, to the increase in the disability claims backlog,” the letter stated. “This is troubling particularly because such delays can prevent veterans from obtaining the benefits they deserve.”

The letter cited a Government Accountability Office report saying a change on how records are transferred, which the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have said they will implement, would reduce the waiting time by 60 to 90 days. But the lawmakers said that is still too much of a delay for those waiting more than a year.

“These are important steps, but it is clear that more must be done to improve the timeliness of record exchanges and to expand cooperation between VA and the Department of Defense,” the senators wrote. “As such, we ask that you affirm your commitment to eliminating the disability backlog through continued and greater collaboration with VA.”