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Topics: Veterans Affairs

Watchdog: Uh-oh, VA, Jon Stewart is watching you

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News,Watchdog,Mark Flatten,Veterans Affairs

Some people say it's not news until it makes it onto Jon Stewart's radar screen.

If that's the case, then it's really time to worry at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Congress has blasted top administrators of the agency for their failure to reduce the backlog of disability claims filed by veterans seeking compensation for service-related medical conditions.

There has been a growing number of calls in the media for the ouster of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Big deal.

But now TV talk show icon Jon Stewart has weighed in with seven minutes of satirical barbs ridiculing the ineffectiveness of the agency and its leaders.

About 900,000 veterans have disability claims awaiting an initial rating decision at VA. Average waits for the decision take almost 10 months, with many veterans waiting more than a year.

Another quarter-million veterans have appeals challenging the initial decisions, which add years more to the process.

The waits have steadily increased in the past four years, going from about 161 days to rate a claim in 2009 to 286 days now, according to the most recent figures.

"That is [expletive] criminal," Stewart said in the segment broadcast last week Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." "The VA's got a backlog of 900,000 people. McDonalds handles 10 times that many customers in an hour. And may I remind you, they are run by a clown."

Stewart, who makes no bones about his liberal leanings, set up another punch line by saying he assumes Republicans are to blame for the VA's failures because they have not given the agency the staff and funding it needs to break the backlog.

But then he played a clip from a Shinseki interview on CNN last month in which the secretary says the VA's budget has increased by 40 percent over the past four years while other federal agencies dealt with austerity measures.

"Republicans," Stewart sneers in response. "They made it impossible for the VA to even find the medical records under all that money they've dumped on the agency."

In February, The Washington Examiner reported in a five-part series, "Making America's Heroes Wait," about the growing delays veterans face and how misplaced priorities at VA skew the system against those seeking disability compensation.

To read the Examiner series, click here.

To watch the Stewart video, click here. For those not familiar with Stewart's brand of wit and analysis, he does occasionally use language you wouldn't want your child to hear.

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Author:

Mark Flatten

Senior Watchdog Reporter
The Washington Examiner