Veterans’ benefits entangled in red tape

Weak economy adds to tally seeking government health care

by Amanda Carpenter
Washington Times
12/31/2009

Leading Democrats like to hold up the Veterans Benefits Administration as an example of how well government can provide health care. But veterans who deal with the complex federal bureaucracy have invented an unhappy refrain to describe the VBA: “Deny, deny until you die.”

VBA, the branch of the Department of Veterans Affairs that dispenses aid and assistance to veterans and their families, is simply overwhelmed. It reported on Monday that there are 481,751 pending claims, some of which will take more than a year to be processed.

Among those flooding the VBA’s facilities with claims are retirement-aged Vietnam veterans and elderly World War II veterans, middle-aged Gulf War veterans, and younger Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. All of these groups are applying in larger numbers because of the weak economy, said Larry Scott, the founder of the advocacy group VAwatchdog.org.

“You’re getting a lot of people who came out of Vietnam and said, ‘Excuse me, screw it.’ They put their uniform away and didn’t want anything to do with the VA. Now they’re getting older and know if their boots were on the ground [in Vietnam], they were presumably exposed to Agent Orange,” Mr. Scott said, referring to the common name for a chemical defoliant widely used in Vietnam that can cause cancer and other diseases.

“There is also great stress on the system because people who qualified for private health insurance are now unemployed, or underemployed and their employer doesn’t provide health care. So you’ve got all these people crawling out and saying, ‘I didn’t know I could get this, but let me go see now.'”

Three government investigations released in September paint a picture of an agency that simply can’t keep up with the demand…

The article continues at the Washington Times.

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