Veterans Affairs Backlog Drops; Critics Urge More Progress

Oct 23, 2013

Senator Richard Blumenthal speaking at the VFW Post in East Hartford. Iraq War veteran Jordan Massa stands behind the Senator.
Credit Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

Despite the federal government shutdown, there was a decrease this month in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backlog to process veterans' disability claims. The VA said pending cases dropped by 10,000 since September 28. But this doesn't mean the pressure is off the federal department to do more.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee , spoke about the backlog challenges outside the VFW in East Hartford. He said the VA takes more than four months to process 57 percent of claims submitted. "Four-hundred-twelve thousand claims are backlogged," he said, "more than 1,000 here in the state of Connecticut. So to put it bluntly, the U.S.A. is failing to pay and process claims it owes these men and women who've served and sacrificed."

Jordan Massa, 26, of Bristol, knows first-hand the impact of waiting on the VA. "I lived in mom's basement," he said. "I was waiting for a decision, and struggling to find employment, which is kind of a double whammy." The Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient served five years in the U.S. Army, including 27 months in Iraq. He came home with a traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress, a sleep disorder, tension headaches, chronic back pain, and tinnitus in both ears.

It wasn't until October 1 when Massa received his first compensation check from the VA. "It took a total of two years and five months to get everything I needed," he said. The VA has allocated money to cover overtime costs as it works on the backlog. Meanwhile, Senator Blumenthal said Congress has approved an additional $291 million to improve the way the benefits side of the VA operates.