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Relief to disabled veterans is backlogged, VA says

With the advent of modern warfare, fewer of our armed service members are killed in the line of duty and more of them survive serious injuries. What once would have been a fatal head wound, is now a survivable brain injury. There are consequences to this development.

According to the Social Security Administration, military service members who are disabled can receive their SSDI benefits through an expedited claims process. Benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs are different and require a separate application.

A recent report from the Veteran's Administration indicates that they are backlogged. It is estimated that 860,000 disability claims from American veterans are waiting to be processed. Of these veterans, 228,000 have been waiting for one year or longer.

With the war in Iraq ended and the war in Afghanistan winding down, the VA has been simply overwhelmed. In addition, Agent Orange and the Gulf War Syndrome were added as legitimate disabling conditions. Unlike the Social Security Administration which has a 100 percent disability determination, the VA has percentages of disability which increases the complexity of the determinations.

A VA spokesperson acknowledged the backlog and said that it is compounded by the fact that the VA is transitioning from paper files to computer systems. During the transition, many of the disability claims are still being processed as paper files.

Any veteran with a disability can apply for both SS disability benefits and Veteran's Administration benefits. It appears the wait for the VA benefits may be much longer.

Source: CNN Health, "Hundreds of thousands of war vets still waiting for health benefits," Randi Kaye and Scott Bronstein, Sept. 30, 2012

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