Veteran Wait Times a Growing Problem

A new report finds that Veterans who file claims at the San Diego VA are waiting more than 9 months on average to settle their claims and receive compensation.

The report was published by the Center for Investigative Reporting, and it looked at and compared VA wait times regionally across the country.

San Diego didn't do so well; in June, it was the office with the worst combination of backlog and clearance rate for claims.

Christina Douglas is a Black Hawk pilot in the Army National Guard. On active duty in 2007, she broke her back in a crash, requiring spinal fusion surgery.

Now she's been waiting more than 9 months on her VA disability compensation claim for chronic back pain.

Christina is not alone in her frustration. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the VA's San Diego office is among the worst. Veterans who file here wait more than 9 months on average.

Part of the problem is an antiquated paper filing system, and mistakes. An IG report published in May found errors in more than half of the claims in San Diego.

On a national scale, the problem isn't getting better.

"Four years ago there were about 400,000 vets nationwide waiting for their benefits now we have almost a million vets nationwide waiting for their benefits," said Aaron Glantz, author of the report.

The VA says they are moving into the computer age; transitioning from paper files to a digital system. And despite the backlogs, they've rolled out record claims for the past three years. The VA also sends letters to keep veterans updated while they wait.

As for Christina, she has a stack of letters and apologies, but is still left waiting for her compensation.

"We go out and we serve our country and some of us come back injured others aren't so lucky - don't come back at all and to wait 8, 9 months to a year for compensation for what we've given - it's just very frustrating," said Christina.

The VA did respond to this report, saying they recognize veterans are waiting too long to receive their benefits and that it's unacceptable.

They said they do have an “aggressive” plan in place to address the problem: aiming for claim completion within about 4 months by 2015.

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