Over the last 12 years, more than two million Americans have been deployed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But for thousands who return home with injuries, another battle is just beginning - this time, with the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA).
Upon enlistment, service members are promised that, should a service-related injury occur, the US government will provide them with care and financial compensation. The VA is responsible for providing this care but have been unable to render these services in a timely manner. The average wait time for a veteran to receive his or her benefits is one year.
President Obama sounded the alarm during a speech in August 2010, stating that it was the country's "moral obligation" to provide veterans with timely compensation. Under VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the Obama administration promised that all claims would be processed within 125 days and with a 98 percent accuracy rating by the year 2015.
Despite Obama's speech, the backlog continued to grow, reaching a peak of nearly 900,000 pending claims with 70 percent backlogged in March of 2013. This past August, the numbers dipped slightly: nearly 800,000 pending claims with 63 percent backlogged.
The administration points to the August numbers as a sign of improvement, but reports of processing errors reveal a poor quality of work, with mistake in 30 percent or more of the claims that they process. Unfortunately for those waiting for assistance, when a mistake is made, the veteran must appeal. Once an appeal is filed, the average waiting time for the veteran is another four years.
About 4 minutes.
Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Joshua Swain and Winkler. Narrated by Todd Krainin.
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