Congress: Veterans Can Wait

While Congress plays political games with the 12 appropriations bills, the Veterans Affairs Department groans under a backlog of 400,000 veterans benefits claims, according to the Senate report on the fiscal 2008 VA-Military Construction spending bill.

The backlog on each of those claims is 177 days, the report noted, while the complexity of adjudicating claims grows as combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan need to be evaluated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and multiple battle injuries to collect their benefits.

The Senate version of the fiscal 2008 VA bill attempts to resolve this backlog by providing $60.7 million to hire new claims processing personnel and another $39.7 million for computers and information technology systems to speed up the processing of the claims, which have increased 39 percent from 2000 to 2006.

The funding is held hostage until at least December (even though there is a war on, Congress needs a Thanksgiving break) when maybe the folks on the Hill will get around to passing the appropriations bills they should have passed two months ago.

One would think that Congress could have at least passed the VA bill before Veterans Day (Nov. 12) in honor of those the nation sends into harms way.

But, hey, the House did honor veterans yesterday with the passage of a bill that called for the creation of National Veterans History Project Week, to be observed next November.

Maybe someone can do a veteran history project on why the Senate and House could not pass a VA spending bill in 2007 before Veterans Day.

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