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Irag, Afghanistan vets face long waits on VA for disability claims

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Almost a quarter-million veterans wait more than a year to have their initial claims for disability payments processed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a new report from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Those with first-time claims for benefits - including veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - have some of the longest waits, with average times to process their cases running almost 11 months. In some offices, it takes more than 21 months.

The long delays have ballooned since President Obama took office four years ago, according to CIR. In 2009, there were 11,000 veterans who waited more than a year for an initial rating on their benefits application. In December, that number reached 245,000, an increase of more than 2,000 percent.

More than a million veterans have claims or appeals pending at VA as they seek monthly stipends for injuries or illnesses that are connected to military service.

The VA failed to provide key information to Congress and the public about the extent of the backlog, CIR reported, relying on documents it obtained showing more detailed numbers than what the agency normally makes available.

A VA spokesman told CIR in an emailed statement that the agency "consistently provides our numbers during congressional hearings and briefings. What is not available online or in these reports is generally available on request."

The Washington Examiner reported in five-part series that agency mistakes and misplaced priorities often lead to years-long delays for veterans seeking compensation.

The full CIR story is available here.

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