Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

May 25, 2013

Logjam

Mikulski trying to ease vets’ problems with red tape

CUMBERLAND — A common complaint among our veterans involves what they often must go through to get the benefits they’re entitled by law to receive because of their service.

 It can involve pensions, health care at Veterans Administration facilities, you name it. One Navy veteran of the Vietnam War who served on a destroyer that had frequent cause to fire its five-inch rifles, told us it took him four tries to get hearing aids from the VA.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), has long been a champion on behalf of our veterans. Last week, she took part in a roundtable discussion with senior adminstration officials and U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, that was designed to start unsnarling the red tape that veterans face.

“We found that the bureaucracy was slacking and dragging,” Mikulski said. “The solution to this problem has to go right to the top.”

There are 839,000 pending veterans’ claims, including 559,000 that have been held up for more than 125 days and another 205,000 that have been backlogged for a year or more.

The task ahead may rank up there with the one Hercules faced when he was tasked with cleaning the Augean Stables — which filled up with what the stables’ occupants produced at a faster rate than he was able to remove.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said, “We all agree that veterans wait too long to receive the benefits they've earned ... . With the president's leadership and the support of the Congress, we are aggressively executing a plan that will fix this decades-old problem and eliminate the backlog in 2015.”

Let’s hope this is the case. Considering what our veterans have done on our behalf, they deserve better than what some have gotten.

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