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Why Hundreds Of Thousands Of Vets Are Waiting For Their Disability Claims

The weight of paper files at the VA's Winston-Salem office threatened to collapse the floor.
Office of the Inspector General/Department of Veterans Affairs
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Hundreds of thousands of veterans have been waiting months - sometimes years - for their disability claims to be processed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Recently, piled up claims threatened to buckle the floor at the Winston-Salem office. 

"On average, the claims office in Winston-Salem - 365 days they take to process that claim," U.S. Senator Kay Hagan told Frank Stasio, host of The State of Things. "Over the last four years, these claims pending have grown over 2000% despite a 40% increase in the VA budget."

At Hagan's request, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has agreed to send a top official to the Winston-Salem office. "For the last two years we've developed and have been fielding an automation system...that will replace that stack of paper that you saw," Shinseki said during an appearance at UNC Chapel Hill last week. "In the next year or so, we'll watch the backlog just begin to be taken down. 2015 still remains our target date."

On The State of Things, Jason Hansman of Iraq & Afganistan Veterans of America applauded Shinseki's comments, but said the automation is coming years too late.  "We're asking for the President to take some real leadership here and get us on track to have a unified system between the VA and the DOD," said Hansman, "and make sure that vets are not waiting over 125 days."

Isaac-Davy Aronson is WUNC's morning news producer and can frequently be heard on air as a host and reporter. He came to North Carolina in 2011, after several years as a host at New York Public Radio in New York City. He's been a producer, newscaster and host at Air America Radio, New York Times Radio, and Newsweek on Air.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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