Ideas for the VA: A bipartisan effort seeks to cut the claims backlog

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The backlog at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been a national disgrace for at least two decades. Although the number of veterans who have been waiting on a disability claim for more than 125 days has begun to shrink, 523,000 wounded warriors are still affected. This is unacceptable.

Reforming the VA has to be a bipartisan effort and, fortunately, Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, are teaming up to find ways to cut the waiting list.

The senators plan to issue an "idea report" with proposals that could be turned into legislative action in the fall that might alleviate the wait time dramatically. Veterans groups are encouraged and have pledged to support the lawmakers' efforts.

For its part, the VA said it will be happy to hear the senators' suggestions. That's a good thing -- 65 percent of veterans who are disabled and in need of financial help have been waiting more than four months for aid. In the Pittsburgh area, the situation is worse; of the 10,278 claims pending here, 76 percent have dragged on for more than 125 days.

Americans ask the men and women who defend their country to make sacrifices that many citizens would never consider. These veterans shouldn't be asked to forgo decent medical services and financial support on top of all their other sacrifices. No decent society would ask that of those who have given so much.

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