Vets stuck in government health benefits nightmare

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.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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