Veterans appreciate hearing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney say, in response to a reporter's question, that the president is 'deadly serious' about reducing the VA disability claims backlog -- because this is deadly serious to the veterans community.
Yet, the hundreds of thousands of brave veterans waiting for claims deserve to hear directly from the president.
Although it is great to hear that the president is taking this issue seriously, the president needs to address many unanswered questions, including:
- Members of Congress and veterans advocates have talked about the key role that the Department of Defense and other government agencies must play in bringing the backlog to zero. How is the president coordinating efforts between agencies in this effort?
- Right now, there are few clear benchmarks that the administration has publicly said it will meet to bring the backlog to zero. With 2015 a year and a half away, what benchmarks is the president using to monitor success in bringing the backlog down by 2015?
- Why hasn't the president created a commission that would include input from the Department of Defense, VA, VSOs and related private sector experts. Such a commission would be able to take a detailed, objective look into the process, identify the problems that are causing the backlog, and come up with the precise metrics and benchmarks that will help track success.
- Over the last two months, the VA has announced new initiatives to reduce the backlog, such as launching an effort to rate all claims that have been pending over two years within 60 days. What prevented the Administration from taking these steps in the past?
- Many veterans advocates are skeptical that the administration can end the backlog by 2015. Is the president confident that the backlog will end by 2015, and if so, for what reasons?
- What should veterans in the backlog do while they are waiting for the backlog to end in 2015 - or if the deadline is missed -- as they experience financial strain?
- The VA announced that it was rating or providing a temporary rating for claims that were over two years old within the next 60 days. Now at the halfway mark with 30,000 claims processed, the VA reported that 95% of claims in the program had sufficient evidence to be given a final rather than a provisional rating. Why did it take a special initiative to rate claims that already had sufficient evidence?
Ultimately, meeting the administration's goal of ending the backlog by 2015 will require even greater inter-agency coordination and clarity and transparency of planning -- and that must come from the Commander-in-Chief.
For more background on the issue, please visit: http://iava.org/blog/solutions-end-va-disability-claims-backlog