It took soldiers returning to the United States from Europe more than a week to cross the Atlantic by boat at the end of World War II. Today troops can traverse the globe from Afghanistan in as little as 24 hours.
When the modern-day service members get back home, though, they enter a time warp where disability claims are processed in much the same way as those of their grandfathers were, with little recognition of how much the world of electronic records management has changed. It is disgraceful that more than half a million soldiers have been waiting longer than four months for their claims to be processed and that some veterans and military spouses have been waiting for more than a year.
Although the Veterans Administration in January 2013 announced a plan to reduce the backlog and move from a paper-intensive system to automated, web-based technology, more progress is necessary. Last summer, a bipartisan group of senators, including Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, set out to study the problem, and last week they announced legislation that should help.
The 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act has three aims: improving the claims submission process and providing veterans with appropriate information; requiring the VA to increase accuracy and efficiency at its regional offices and be more transparent regarding the size of its backlog; and demanding greater cooperation among federal agencies, which is necessary to get benefits to eligible veterans.
Processing of disability claims must be as seamless and efficient as possible without sacrificing the VA’s obligations to render just decisions that provide appropriate payments to veterans while preventing misuse of taxpayer dollars.
Congress can help by passing the bill soon. U.S. troops did not delay in serving their country. The least America can do is not keep them waiting.