Senator Lisa Murkowski joined a bipartisan group of 66 Senators today in urging President Obama to address the massive backlog in Veterans' Administration (VA) disabilities claims. In Alaska, veterans wait an average of 467 days to see the benefits they have earned; nationwide, the average is 300 days for the approximately 600,000 total veterans stuck in the backlog.
The bi-partisan letter (attached) calls for a renewed commitment on the part of President Obama and his "administration to find a solution that ensures that no veterans are stuck in the VA backlog," saying:
"In the last four years, the number or claims pending for over a year has grown by over 2000% despite a 40% increase in VA's budget. As a reminder, during this same time period, Congress has given VA everything it has asked for in terms of funding and more employees; however, this has not eliminated the backlog of claims. Solving this problem is critical for veterans of all generations. We need direct and public involvement from you to establish a clear plan to end the backlog once and for all."
"While Alaskan veterans face very unique and Alaska-specific shortcomings from the VA -- like close to home access for rural care -- it's also critical that the VA address the core problem facing hundreds of thousands of veterans across the nation," said Senator Murkowski. "It's unrealistic to expect the VA to begin addressing Alaska's concerns if they can't even solve the most fundamental ones."
Senator Murkowski has long been committed to ensuring Veterans are provided with the access and care they deserve. Only last week, Secretary of Veterans Affairs General Eric Shinseki testified to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans, where Senator Murkowski asked him tough questions on rural and remote access in Alaska and across the country. During that hearing, Secretary Shinseki testified that 36 of 56 VA regional offices are now equipped with the Veterans Benefits Management System, a technological tool he says will help end the backlog by 2015.