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Hoosier vets face some of longest claim waits

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COURTESY OF CALI.ORG/ERIC MOLINSKY VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Courtesy of Cali.org/Eric Molinsky via Flickr Creative Commons


Indiana veterans who have registered disability claims with the Veterans Administration in Indianapolis face some of the longest processing wait times in the nation.

According to an interactive digital map published by the Center for Investigative Reporting, which uses VA data to track claim backlogs nationwide, 16, 378 veterans were waiting for disability benefits to be processed by the local VA as of May 13, 2013 — down from nearly 20,000 in late March. As of December 2012, more than 9,000 people had waited for more than a year. The average wait time for claims in the Indianapolis office is 443 days — 105 days longer than the national average. For first-time claimants the wait time is much higher at 612 days.

Nationwide, the Veterans Administration faces a backlog of benefits claims that is estimated to have topped 1 million this spring, according to the CIR report.

On May 22, Aaron Glantz, the reporter leading CIF's coverage of the VA backlog posted a new story, "VA backs off promise to fix veterans' claim backlog." Here's a tidbit: According CIF analysis of internal VA documents, Glantz wrote, "the agency processed 260,000 fewer claims than it thought it would during the past year and a half ..."

In March, Glantz published "VA's ability to quickly provide benefits plummets under Obama," which featured an interview with Indiana veteran Lincoln Capstick, who served in Iraq and said he had his electricity disconnected repeatedly as he waited for his disability claim to be processed.

"I'm not surprised at the number of us that kill ourselves," Capstick told Glantz. "There were periods where I thought of killing myself. You just get so hopeless."

Glantz's work includes the VA statistic that an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day and, in "VA backlog follows veterans to the grave," he documents how the VA's backlog affects widows and widowers waiting for benefits and undermines attempts to provide veterans at fatal breaking points.

Check out some the data CIR has compiled from VA records. CIR is sharing the data nationwide to raise awareness of the issues and inspire veterans to back up the data with their real-world stories.

Veterans who wish to contribute their backlog stories to the ongoing project should visit http://tinyurl.com/VetClaimbacklog. CIR is using American Public Media's Public Insight Network to connect veteran sources with journalists working on the story nationwide. Checkout the conversation via Twitter at #VAbacklog.























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