A World War II veteran who fought with the U.S. army and invaded Normandy on D-Day died while waiting for his benefits to go through.
Richard Scott, 86, never asked for anything from the country he served until the end of his life when he filed for benefits through the Veterans Administration to help pay for his medication, according to Fox 29 Philadelphia. Scott died in June, after a full year of waiting for his claim to be approved.
"It's almost like the government is waiting for him to die so they won't have to pay the benefits. And that's what happened," his daughter-in-law Rebecca Scott told Fox 29. "I'm at a loss for words as to how these men and women have been treated."
His son, Greg, is relieved that his father never heard back for fear that his claim would have been denied. "I think that would have really crushed him. I think he would have really felt abandoned. I mean, terribly abandoned," he told Fox 29.
Scott's story is similar to many others.
The New York Times detailed the strife of veterans waiting for benefits as claims pile up in a new report. Last year, more than 1.3 million claims were filed by veterans, a number double that of 2001. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs has added nearly 4,000 new workers since 2008, the agency has failed to keep pace and failed to complete even 80 percent of its inventory.
This issue is known simply as "the backlog," according to the NY Times.
[The backlog is] the crushing inventory of claims for disability, pension and educational benefits that has overwhelmed the Department of Veterans Affairs. For hundreds of thousands of veterans, the result has been long waits for decisions, mishandled documents, confusing communications and infuriating mistakes in their claims.
Veterans around the nation are waiting an average of 260 days for a decision on a war-related disability claim, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported by The Bay Citizen. That's three days longer than last week and 80 days longer than mid-2011.
The average wait time in the slowest offices in the country is over a year. These offices are located in Los Angeles, Chicago and Waco, Texas.
U.S. Rep Jon Runyan, R-N.J., chairman on the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs addressed Congress on the troubling matter last week.
"Frustrated veterans want to know why it takes so long to process their claim," he said. "Frustrated lawmakers want to know why the backlog keeps increasing. And frustrated VA employees want everyone to know that the folks on the front lines are doing the best they can to try to keep up with an increasing amount of claims."
He highlighted a recent Center for Investigative Reporting study, which revealed that veterans in less populated states have their benefits claims processed faster than those in more populous states. However, in most states, "more often than not, that veteran is waiting too long to receive their benefits decision."
Feeling inspired to help? Consider supporting the organizations below that are committed to improving the lives and well being of wounded veterans.
Ease A Crisis Situation Staffed by a team of veterans well versed in crisis management and VA medical services, the National Veterans Foundation breaks down veterans' benefits, offers referral services and has trained counselors on hand prepared to handle crisis situations. Consider donating to the National Veterans Foundation here.
Help Wounded Warriors The Wounded Warrior Project aids soldiers wounded in battle with recovery and support, and increases awareness of these soldiers’ health. Ways to get involved are ample, and range from attending speeches to donating through your purchase of a ketchup bottle.
Offer Medical Help For the injured warriors who have undergone major surgeries, but still need more reconstructive work they can't afford, there’s Iraq Star. This nonprofit steps in to give injured veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars the continued surgeries they need to heal and improve their self esteem. Learn how you can help Iraq Star here.
Provide Monetary Support Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund supports the Armed Forces and their families by providing close to $120 million in support for families and severely wounded military members and veterans.
Holistic Healing Hope for the Warriors' comprehensive healing approach offers wounded vets one central place to turn during their most trying moments. The organization addresses injured warriors' immediate needs and follows them through to the recovery period to the point when they're ready to take on outdoor adventures. Consider donating to Hope for the Warriors here.