Backlog for veterans' benefits still a problem in Pittsburgh

Back on Nov. 6, we told our readers about the problems the Pittsburgh Veterans' Administration Regional Office was having processing claims for veterans' benefits in a timely matter. At that time, VA officials were blaming a sharp increase in applications both from older veterans and from those returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the delays. At the time, veterans had to wait an average of 10 months before their initial application was approved or rejected.

As long of a wait as that is, many men and women in the Pittsburgh area who served our country deal with even longer delays for veterans' benefits. One news article says that there are more than 10,000 Pennsylvania veterans have been waiting more than a year for the VA to rule on their claims. Around 3,800 of those applications are pending in the Pittsburgh office, which is ranked 51st out of the country's 58 regional offices in terms of efficiency.

Though Pittsburgh's regional office is ranked particularly low, the VA is struggling with a backlog nationwide. In 2010, the secretary of veterans affairs promised to get rid of claims lasting longer than 125 days by 2015. So far, that pledge is not working out as the number of backlogged claims has increased.

The wait is more than annoying for many disabled veterans. Many of them are unable to work due to injuries sustained in action. Months spent waiting for the VA to approve their benefits can wipe out savings and cause homes to be lost to foreclosure or eviction.

The VA says that electronic claim filing, which the Pittsburgh office began using in March, could improve efficiency by up to 60 percent. Hopefully, this will make a difference in getting disabled veterans the benefits they deserve.

Source: Pocono Record, "These veterans served. Now they wait for their benefits," Bill Heltzel, May 2, 2013

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