Senator Jay Rockefeller today welcomed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to the VA Regional Office in Huntington and thanked him for working hard to solve the ongoing problem of long waits for veterans claims at the VA.
"We have a sacred duty to the men and women who fought for our country, and it's one I take very, very seriously," Rockefeller said. "But far too often the veterans coming home, in particular those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, are not getting the care they deserve. It just takes too long for the VA to process healthcare claims. That troubles me because it forces families to make impossible choices between putting food on their table or getting life-sustaining treatment or medicine. And it troubles Secretary Shinseki as well. He knows the VA has to do a better job--and he knows I stand ready to assist him in any way possible to take care of our vets."
Rockefeller has in recent months heard from several veterans about lengthy delays in their healthcare claims. Seeking clarity, Rockefeller last month met with Secretary Shinseki on the issue after he sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, with the other members of the Veterans Affairs Committee, pressing the Pentagon to work more closely with the VA to solve the agency's backlog problem.
In addition, Rockefeller, the longest serving member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and its past chairman, again addressed the issue at a Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last month in which he again urged Secretary Shinseki to make solving the veterans backlog a priority.
Secretary Shinseki today met with staff at the Huntington VA regional office in discussing new ways to speed up the claims process for veterans who have waited one year or longer. Rockefeller applauded Shinseki's plan to eliminate the claims backlog in 2015.
"I'm extraordinarily appreciative of the time Secretary Shinseki is spending in West Virginia today, meeting with the dedicated staff there who provide such wonderful care," Rockefeller said. "And I'm pleased to know he's taking concrete steps to solve this problem."
Veterans issues make up more than half of Rockefeller's constituent services caseload, work that is vital to helping veterans navigate the backlog process. Rockefeller's office assisted more than 800 veterans in getting their benefits in 2012.