clear
Sunday February 7th, 2016 4:50PM

Obama: Progress made on disability claims backlog

By The Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- President Barack Obama assured disabled veterans Saturday that his administration is making progress on reducing a backlog of disability claims and said the number of requests for assistance has fallen by nearly one-fifth since peaking at more than 600,000 just a few months ago.

In an address at the Disabled American Veterans' convention in Orlando, Obama also announced a national plan to guide mental health research, as well as commitments from 250 community colleges and universities to help veterans earn college degrees or get the credentials they need to find jobs.

A chief concern for veterans is the backlog of disability claims for compensation for illness and injury caused by military service.

"After years of military service, you shouldn't have to wait years for the benefits you've earned," Obama said.

The number of claims ballooned after Obama made it easier for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange to get benefits. Access to benefits also was eased for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder and Gulf War veterans afflicted with malaria, West Nile virus or other infectious diseases.

The backlog is shrinking due to some aggressive steps taken by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including requiring claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices to work overtime and moving from a manual to a computerized system to help speed the judgment of claims, administration officials said.

About 780,000 claims are pending. About 496,000 are considered backlogged after the 20 percent reduction Obama highlighted, down from 611,000 at the end of March, said White House press secretary Jay Carney. A claim is considered backlogged if it has been in the system for 125 days, or roughly four months.

Even with that progress, Obama acknowledged the amount of work still needed to eliminate the backup by 2015 as VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has promised.

"Today I can report that we are not where we need to be, but we are making progress," Obama said. "So after years when the backlog kept growing, finally the backlog is shrinking."

The president also announced the release of a comprehensive national plan to improve the ability to prevent, diagnose and treat PTSD and traumatic brain injuries and mental health issues earlier and better, and to reduce suicides, according to a briefing paper the White House released Saturday before the president spoke.

Beyond the claims issue, Republican lawmakers have started to hammer the VA on the issue of patient safety.

A congressional hearing in Atlanta this past week focused on poor patient care linked to four deaths. Another hearing is scheduled for next month in Pittsburgh, where five veterans died as a result of a Legionnaire's disease outbreak in 2011-12.

Several dozen protesters greeted Obama as he arrived at the hotel. Some held signs that said "Kenyan Go Home," "Impeach Obama," and "Obama Lies."

Obama met privately with DAV members before the speech, the White House said. Afterward, he headed to Martha's Vineyard, Mass., for a family vacation.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 2 years ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 2 years ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end
In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty - once again - for millions of individuals and businesses.
2:21PM ( 2 years ago )
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 2 years ago )
Politics
Search for Missouri couple wanted for crimes across the South, including Ga., ends with one suspect dead and the other wounded
A weeklong search for a Missouri couple wanted in a series of robberies and abductions across the South ended with one suspect dead and the other wounded Friday, after authorities say they chased the pair across the highway and through a rural neighborhood and exchanged gunfire with them in Florida's Panhandle.
By The Associated Press
9:57PM ( 1 day ago )
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while, buoying consumers, frustrating oil producers
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while.That reality is wreaking havoc and causing uncertainty for some governments and businesses, while creating financial windfalls for others. Less expensive...
6:18PM ( 4 days ago )
Cruz (R) expected to claim conservative Iowa caucus victory, with Clinton (D) and Sanders (D) deadlocked among liberal vote
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept to victory in Iowa's Republican caucuses Monday, overcoming billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were deadlocked in a tight race.
By The Associated Press
10:55PM ( 5 days ago )
America, its politics in flux as voting begins
On the eve of the first contest on the 2016 presidential election calendar, some voters are pushing for bolder, more uncompromising action, with an intensity that has shaken both the Republican and Democratic establishments.
By The Associated Press
9:00PM ( 6 days ago )
Piedmont College biology professor says getting rid of mosquito breeding areas key to control of Zika virus
The World Health Organization says the Zika virus is likely to spread to every area of the U.S. where the mosquito that carries it can be found - and that includes Georgia.
By Russell Brown
9:38AM ( 1 week ago )