Attorney Rees Lloyd
December 29, 2012
The Center for Investigative Reporting, in a new analysis of Veterans Affairs data, exposes the stark fact that the government operated VA's failure to timely process disability claims results in an escalating number of deserving veterans who die before the VA bureaucracy even processes their claims. (See, www.cironline.org.)
"The VA's inability to pay benefits to veterans before they die is increasingly common, according to data obtained by the Center for Investigating Reporting. The data reveals, for the first time, that long wait times are contributing to tens of thousands of veterans being approved for disability benefits and pensions only after it is too late for the money to help them," writes investigative reporter Aaron Glantz.
"In the fiscal year that ended in September , the agency paid $437 million in retroactive benefits to the survivors of nearly 19,500 veterans who died waiting. The figures represent a dramatic increase from three years earlier, when the widows, parents and children of fewer than 6,400 veterans were paid $7.9 million on claims filed before their loved one's death," Glantz reports.
"The ranks of survivors waiting for these benefits also have surged, from fewer than 3,000 in December 2009 to nearly 13,000 this month [December 2012]," Glantz writes. "Nationwide, 900,000 veterans and their families have been waiting about nine months for a decision, with veterans in California, facing even long waits. As of October, the most recent month for which numbers are available, the average wait time for a veteran was nearly 11 months in San Diego, 17 months in Oakland, and a year and a half in Los Angeles."
The CIR found that "chronic mistakes" compound delays.
"Veteran advocates and family members of veterans who died waiting accuse the VA of callous indifference in denying legitimate benefits claims and deluging families with paperwork even as loved ones slip away. Chronic mistakes add a feeling of abandonment," Glantz reports. "A Center for Investigative Reporting analysis of 18 reports published this year by the VA's inspector general revealed auditors found mistakes in more than 1 in 3 high-profile claims they reviewed. In 2011, the Board of Veterans Appeals found errors in 73 per cent of cases it decided, according to the board's annual report."
How many people working in the wealth producing private sector instead of the wealth consuming government sector would still have jobs if "auditors found mistakes in more than 1 in 3 high profile claims they reviewed[,]" and made "errors in 73 per cent of cases"?
The CIR report quotes Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, as saying, "The common refrain we heard from many veterans is 'Delay, deny, wait till I die'." Miller said the data confirmed the worst fears of many veterans and members of Congress, and he called the backlog of claims a "national embarrassment."
That is true, but it is more than that--it is a national disgrace. These are the men and women who put their lives and limbs at risk in military service to defend the freedom of the rest of us. It is wrong to speak of them as receiving "benefits," as they are in fact, in contrast to so many "entitlements," earned benefits, earned by military service. They should be the first to be served, not the last, as they were the first --and only-- ones to serve in military defense of the nation.
The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled Americans Veterans, Amvets, indeed, all major veterans service organizations, have fought for years for the VA, and the national government, to act on the backlog of unprocessed claims, although most of the American public have remained silent, and unconcerned, that those veterans who served to protect their freedom are dying before their claims are even processed. There has been a lot of rhetoric from politicians and bureaucrats about the problem of government inefficiency, but little real effective action to eliminate that backlog of unprocessed claims.
The result is this now "skyrocketing" number of veterans who are dying before the VA bureaucracy processes their claims. It is a national disgrace. It also raises serious questions which should concern all Americans who will soon be subject, like veterans, to government-controlled socialized medicine, a/k/a Obamcare.
For one instance: How can the national government establish an efficient provision of health services through Barack Obama's much larger government-controlled Obamacare, with 159 built-in new bureaucracies in the 2,700-page misnamed Affordable Health Care Act, when Obama cannot even devote the funding, focus, and fundamental concern needed to ensure that the much smaller government-run Veterans Administration even processes the disability claims of veterans before they die?
This failure of the VA to even process veterans disability claims cannot be for lack of money. Money is being spent as never before in history by Obama. But Obama has his priorities. Obama will expend billions for the bureaucrats running Obamacare and to provide socialized medicine for an estimated 30-million more persons than the government presently provides for through Medicaid, the overwhelming majority of whom never served a day in defense of America. But Obama, the Commander-In-Chief, has utterly failed in his first term to ensure that the disability claims of veterans who have served to defend America are processed before they die.
Regarding money and priorities, consider, for example, that Obama, acting like a monarch rather than an elected "public servant" as president, unilaterally waved his royal scepter and ordered an extra day off with pay for almost all federal employees -- including VA bureaucrats, but not the military, of course -- on Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, so they could have another nice four-day weekend over the Christmas Holiday.
That act of Obama cost American taxpayers $100,000,000 dollars paid to VA and other federal employees for not working. Let the backlog and the veterans be damned.
How many people could have been contracted with, or hired, by the VA, to get processed the enormous backlog of unprocessed of claims of veterans, if that $100,000,000 had been freed-up by Obama for that purpose?
That could have been done, for instance, by ordering an unpaid day off for those federal "public servants" (sic) and their salaries diverted to the VA to process veterans' claims? After all, if Obama has the power to order a paid day off for all federal employees, then he must have also the power to order an unpaid day off for all federal employees. But,then, for whom would they vote in future?
Consider also the example of priorities set by Obama: While veterans lay dying with their claims unprocessed by Obama's VA, Obama and the lovely Michelle once again jetted off to vacation in Hawaii over the Christmas Holidays--on separate presidential planes, which is their wont, in the nature of noblesse oblige and the doctrine of: "Socialism for the masses, taxation for the rich, and Sun King extravagance for the Obamas."
The Obamas racked up a mindboggling $1.5-billion in expenditures on themselves, including such "his and hers" flights, in one-year alone, living like potentates rather than public servants in elective office in a constitutional republic.
How many disability claims of veterans could have been processed if the ever-so-caring "for the people" Obama and Michelle not caused $1.5-billion in expenses -- at taxpayer expense -- on their own care, feeding, vacations, date nights, campaigning in the guise of government business, etc., etc., and instead that $1.5-billion, or a major part thereof, was spent on processing the disability claims of deserving veterans by the VA?
The VA, which does provide good health care when you can get it , is an exemplar of government inefficiency in processing health-related disability claims, and delayed delivery of health care, including long waits, and rationing of health care, e.g., surgeries, based on decisions by bureaucrats, as to what care the claimants deserve. If any person doubts for one minute that Obama's 15-member panel of experts who will decide what care should be given under Obamacare is other than a "Death Panel," then take a look at the government run VA as it rations care, especially end-of-life care, to veterans.
While Obama runs up the greatest debt in the history of the nation, intruding the government into more and more areas of life, and spends more time campaigning then governing, Obama remains either unwilling or unable to order, direct, command, or execute the laws providing that those who served the nation in military service and suffer injury and health problems thereby, shall have fulfilled to them the nation's promise that they will be cared for--starting with something so fundamental as processing their claims.
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It must be asked: Where are the voices of all those liberals who voted for Obama and supported his Obamacare, where are all those federal and other government employees self-righteously holding themselves out as "public servants" doing good at others expense, where are all those government-union leaders and members who spent millions supporting Obamacare and then obtained exemptions from it for themselves, where are their voices demanding that veterans have their disability claims acted upon before, not after, they die? Where is Obama when veterans die waiting for the Obama government to process their claims?
Shame on them, shame on him --and shame on those who elected him if they do not take a stand and demand that the Obama government, first, before it purports to impose socialized medicine on the entire nation through Obamacare, evidence that it has the ability to carry out the elemental duty to efficiently process the disability claims of veterans before they die, which the Obama government has utterly, and disgracefully, failed to do. Click here to visit NewsWithViews.com home page.
© 2012 Rees Lloyd - All Rights Reserved
REES LLOYD is a longtime civil rights attorney and veterans activist whose work has been honored by, among others, the California Senate and Assembly, and numerous civil rights, workers rights, and veterans rights organizations. He has testified as a constitutional expert at hearings before the U.S. House and Senate representing The American Legion.
He has been profiled, and his work featured, by such varied print media as the Los Angeles Times and American Legion Magazine, and such broadcast media as ABC's Nightline and 20/20, Fox News In The Morning, and, among others, by Hannity. His writings have appeared in a variety of national, regional, and local newspaper, magazine, and other publications. He is a frequent radio commentator, and a sought after speaker.*
[*For identification only. The views expressed here are solely Rees Lloyd's and not necessarily any person, entity or organization he may otherwise represent. ]