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NY Congressman: V.A. Must Cut Backlog by Half a Million

March 13, 2007

A House Committee today plans to take up the troubled Veteran's Administration, which now has a 600,000 case backlog, as it tries to cope with all the veterans returning from Iraq. New York Congressman John Hall says of all the mistakes that have been made in the Iraq war, one of the most glaring is the failure to plan for long term care for returning veterans. Hall says the price tag could top a trillion dollars, but the immediate priority is cutting down the backlog by a half a million cases.

"There's no question that we're going to pay for it and the we owe it to them, the only question is how; and we're going to start in a small way by trying to just figure out how to get this backlog down we can't even have 100,000. I think we have to get the backlog of cases well under six figures."

A soldier is seven-and-a-half times more likely to survive wounds in this war compared to Viet Nam, and Hall says that means the VA needs to add staff to help all those returning soldiers.

The 600,000 case backlog at the VA means phones are ringing off the hook as New York veterans try to find out when their benefits will be available. One of those taking the calls is Edward Aulman at the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency.

"It means veterans and widows in nursing homes are waiting for a $90 a month pension that they are entitled to, who used to get it in two weeks are waiting close to a year, and some of the waits of course are to the point where by the time they get their reward, they're dead, and that's really sad."

Congressman Hall is proposing a measure that would let some veterans leave the notorious conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center and return to vacant beds at Veterans Hospitals in their home state.

"This is a temporary way that of using resources we have and buildings that are already there and that are not infested with mice or mold, and at the same time getting the soldier closer to their own families."

Michael Clifford/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY