Besieged Oakland VA to Face State Congressional Delegation in May as Claims Backlog Soars Past 900,000

VA Faces Two Crises: Mental Health and Disability Claims

by Paul Sullivan
The Bay Citizen, May 1, 2012

An extensive news investigation by Bay Citizen reporter Aaron Glantz delved into the serious problems facing our Veterans seeking disability benefits in northern California. At the law firm of Bergmann & Moore, every day we hear from Veterans complaining about unreasonable delays and denials by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Mike Grabski, former soldier has been waiting for VA to process his disability claim since December of 2009. In Oakland, more than 35,000 Veterans are waiting an average of nearly 11 months for a claim decision.

The reality on the ground shows VA faces two major crises.

First, an internal VA audit released last week revealed a staggering 51 percent of Veterans waited more than 14 days for a mental health evaluation. VA’s delays have dire consequences: 18 Veterans commit suicide every day. VA had misled Congress, reporting only five percent of Veterans waited longer than 14 days. 

An April 25, 2011, editorial in The New York Times highlighted how VA doesn’t get it when it comes to providing prompt and high-quality mental healthcare to our Veterans.

VA’s second significant crisis is an inventory of more than 900,000 pending disability compensation cases nationwide. Veterans now wait an average of seven months for an initial VA claim decision. In Oakland, more than 35,000 Veterans are waiting an average of nearly 11 months for a claim decision. That’s seven months longer than VA’s goal of four months.
Even worse, VA takes an average of five years to process an additional inventory of more than 250,000 appealed disability cases sitting in Washington, DC. Fixing VA is vital because Veterans need approved disability claims to pay rent and feed their families. An approved claim often opens the door to urgently needed free VA medical care. Nationwide, more than 1.1 million Veterans and their families are waiting on a besieged VA.

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