Illinois has 4th worst wait time in nation for ailing vets, average now more than 500 days
August 14, 2013, WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) released the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s remarks regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog:
“Illinois veterans now have to wait more than 500 days for the VA to process their disability claims, and while I am pleased the President recognizes the seriousness of this issue, the time to act is long overdue,” Senator Kirk said. “One Illinois resident, Vietnam Veteran Roger Allison, was forced to wait 790 days after he filed his claim until my office intervened, and that is simply unacceptable.
“Senator Tim Johnson and I have proposed a 10-step plan to eliminate this backlog, and I hope the President and Congress will act without delay to enact these reforms so we can keep our promise to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Senator Kirk partnered with Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), the subcommittee Chairman, to develop a bipartisan, 10-point plan to reform the VA’s disability claims process and reduce wait times for veterans everywhere. Their proposal would put more claims agents in place and improve their training to clear out the current backlog, increase oversight and accountability of claims processing, and accelerate the process of making veterans' medical records electronic to simplify service members' transition from the Defense Department into the VA. More information about the plan is available here.
The VA’s Chicago Regional Office – which processes claims for all Illinois veterans – has the fourth worst claims backlog in the country, with veterans waiting an average of 529 days. About 78 percent of its 16,000 claims have been pending for more than 125 days. The national average wait time is 324 days, and more than 500,000 veterans nationwide are still stuck in the claims backlog.
On April 29, 2013, Senator Kirk and a bipartisan group of 68 senators wrote to President Obama, urging him to take direct action in ending the VA disability claims backlog. They called on the President to establish a clear plan to end the backlog. The text of the letter can be viewed here.
At a May 22, 2013, meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Senator Kirk questioned them about the claims backlog and urged them to work toward solutions, including improving the transition from the military into the VA system by making medical records electronic. A video clip of Senator Kirk discussing the meeting can be found here.
On June 20, 2013, Senator Kirk voted for a VA spending bill that included more than $2.5 billion of funds for reducing the VA claims backlog. The Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill by a vote of 23-6.