Guest Column • State Rep. Tony Burkley
In recent years, the number of veterans who have returned home applying for disability benefits has increased. This increase has caused a backlog in our system to provide medical care for men and women who put their lives on the line for our country. Some estimates I have seen have indicated that more than 900,000 service members are facing delays in receiving disability benefits.
Because of continual advancements in medicine and technology, there are more opportunities for veterans to be treated and to live longer after returning from service. But it is critical that their claims are respected and responded to promptly.
This is primarily a federal issue, so what states like Ohio can do is very limited. Still, it is an issue that affects our state and region. The VA office in Cleveland has said that nearly 24,000 veterans in Ohio alone have waited an average of 265 days to have their disability claims processed. Our area veterans organizations do a great job of providing services and maintaining unity among our service men and women. However, processing delays at the federal level put serious strain on the people who need help.
Between fiscal years 2009 and 2012, the average time for the Department of Veterans Affairs to complete a disability claim went from 161 days to 260 days, according to the United States Government Accountability Office. In that same time, the number of backlogged claims that have been pending for more than 125 days has tripled.
Again, while states are very limited with what they can do to address this problem, they can put pressure on the federal government and make it clear that the delays in processing veterans’ disability claims is a serious problem that must be corrected. Recently, the Ohio House passed a resolution urging the president, Congress and the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs to take every step needed to reduce this wait time.
As with many problems our nation is facing, the solution might not be simple. But when it comes to taking care of the individuals who have admirably served our country on the battlefield and who now require medical attention, patience is no virtue.
Rep. Burkley may be reached by calling 614-644-5091, e-mailing Rep82@ohiohouse.gov or writing to State Representative Tony Burkley, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.