During an appearance on MSNBC, Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting explained why the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was failing to process so many disability benefits claims.
“The central problem facing the VA is that they’re not able to deal with this flood of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans coming home at the same time that a lot of Vietnam veterans are finally being allowed to claim illnesses caused by Agent Orange,” he said. “This is a paperwork problem. You know, they have so much paperwork that they just simply can’t put it through.”
Glantz reported earlier this month that the number of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits increased more than 2,000 percent from 2009 to 2012. There are currently about 900,000 veterans waiting to receive their benefits.
“The documents that we obtained showed that even though they had spent half a billion dollars trying to computerizes this thing over the last four years, 97 percent of these claims are still on paper,” he added. “There’s a complete dysfunctionality, there’s bad management at most of their regional offices and at the end of the day what this means is if you come home from Iraq or Afghanistan and file your first claim in New York City, you’re going to be waiting an average of 642 days for your benefits.”
Kayla Williams, a former intelligence specialist, noted 37 percent of people in the backlog were Vietnam veterans. The VA began accepting claims for disabilities related to Agent Orange exposure in 2009, a decision she described as “morally right.”
The department plans to have all disability claims processed within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy by 2015. Glantz said the VA had successfully modernized its medical records system, but simply “dropped the ball” when it came to disability claims.
Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC, below: