Montgomery is among the more than 1.1 million veterans trapped in bureaucratic limbo waiting for the VA to process claims for disability and pension benefits earned through military service. Many will wait years for an answer.
Almost 900,000 of those cases are stuck in one of VA’s 57 regional offices, where claims workers determine whether the veterans’ maladies are service-connected and warrant compensation through a monthly stipend.
An additional quarter-million cases are on appeal, a process that typically takes more than three years before decisions are made.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki pledged in 2009 that the agency’s mission is to process all benefits claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy by 2015.
But things have only gotten worse since Shinseki made that promise. Four years ago, an average of 161 days elapsed before the VA issued an initial rating on a disability application.
Today, it takes an average of 273 days — nine months — and waits are often longer than that. More than 70 percent of cases currently in the system have been there beyond Shinseki’s 125-day pledge.