We’re not taking care of our military veterans. President Barack Obama and Congress are not reacting quick enough in the matter of processing benefit claims for veterans.
The Obama administration has included an increase in funding for veterans in the new proposed budget, but it will take a year or two for those funds to solve present problems if his budget remains intact and approved.
As commander in chief, what the president should do is use present administrative manpower in the military to help the Department of Veterans Affairs process claims quicker. It would be a temporary assignment for the military until budget funds come to the rescue.
The Veterans Benefit Administration, an agency within the VA, handles the processing of claims. There currently is a backlog of more than 850,000 claims awaiting a decision in the department. Nearly 70 percent have been pending for more than 125 days, a benchmark for timely action, according to news reports.
There has been publicity about this situation for several years. We’ve heard especially about the mental health problems veterans of action in Iraq and Afghanistan have incurred. Had they received help sooner, perhaps some of the suicides of veterans could have been prevented.
This is a leadership decision that awaits action. The president has the authority to order administrative military personnel to assist the agencies that deal with veterans. The military can get by with some of its personnel on a temporary assignment to a civilian department.
We don’t think this is a difficult decision, but we don’t know what it will take for the president to act. It should be viewed as an emergency.