Sunday, March 11, 2007

New York Times Veterans piece

The NYT is covering disparities in coverage for Veterans across the United States.

Unable to work because of post-traumatic stress disorder and back injuries from a bomb blast in Iraq in 2004, Specialist James Webb of the Army ran out of savings while waiting 11 months for his claim. In the fall of 2005, Mr. Webb said, he began living on the streets in Decatur, Ga., a state that has the 10th-largest backlog of claims in the country.

“I should have just gone home to be with family instead of trying to do it on my own,” said Mr. Webb, who received a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. “But with the post-traumatic stress disorder, I just didn’t want any relationships.”

Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts do not make the process any easier. In fact, the heorism displayed by those that have served this nation in a time of war provides a good preparation for the trials, tribulations, and frustrations that await the process for obtaining their benefits.

Why does a soldier or Veteran have to fight harder for their benefits than they did during the war they served in?

Staffing levels at the veterans agency vary widely and have not kept pace with the increased demand. The current inventory of disability claims rose to 378,296 by the end of the 2006 fiscal year. The claims from returning war veterans plus those from previous periods increased by 39 percent from 2000 to 2006. During the same period, the staff for handling claims has remained relatively flat, a problem the department highlighted in its 2008 proposed budget. The department expects to receive about 800,000 new claims in 2007 and 2008 each.

It's the National Guard and Reserve soldiers that fall through the cracks in a system that is completely overburdened.

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