WASHINGTON -- Disabled veterans waiting more than a year for federal benefits will move to the front of the line, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced today.
The department has been under pressure from federal lawmakers and others who say the 9.5-month average wait time is far too long.
It's even worse in Pittsburgh where processing takes 10 months on average.
"Too many veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said in a written statement today. "This initiative is the right thing to do now for veterans who have waited the longest."
During a series of recent Congressional hearings, Mr. Shinseki blamed the backlog on the large number of injured veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade.
Mr. Shinseki has promised to reduce the average wait time to 125 days by the end of 2015.
To achieve that, he is rolling out a new computerized processing system and is offering more training to claims processors.
The Pittsburgh office began using the new computer system a month ago.
Nationally, 3.9 million veterans receive disability benefits totaling about $54 billion a year.
Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-996-9292 and on Twitter: @pgPoliTweets.