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Hagan touts push for answers on VA

Posted April 2, 2013

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan

— U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan says she is continuing to push the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce a backlog of cases at the regional office in Winston-Salem.

The Democrat sent a letter to the department last week complaining that more than 7,000 veterans with claims pending at that office had waited more than a year for a ruling on disability benefits. That letter echoes the findings of a story by the Center for Investigative Reporting that found more veterans wait longer today for disability benefits than when President Barack Obama took office.

"The ranks of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits grew from 11,000 in 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, to 245,000 in December," the center found.

Hagan called the national problem "totally unacceptable," but her response has been focused on Winston-Salem.

In her letter last week, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to "dispatch senior officials from the VA Headquarters in Washington to North Carolina to ensure the Winston-Salem regional office receives the necessary assistance."

Hagan said she has not received a response to that letter. 

Congress has set aside funding for the VA and Department of Defense to improve the system that handles veteran benefit claims. The goal, according to Shinseki, is to reduce the wait time for benefit rulings to under 125 days for all applicants by 2015.

Hagan said Tuesday that veterans should not have to wait three years for the problem to be fixed.

"If it's a manpower issue, we need to address it immediately," she said.

Winston-Salem is one of the most problematic offices in the country, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting and PBS News Hour, which cited auditors findings that paperwork was stacked so high in the office it was unsafe to inhabit.

Hagan said that VA funding would not be affected by sequestration, but she did not have an answer as to how Congress might fix the overall backlog. 

One veteran, who is also a reporter for local newspaper, asked on a Tuesday conference call what the senator could do to keep people like him from waiting more than six months just to be seen for the first time by VA medical staff.

"For you to have to wait six months in unacceptable," Hagan said.

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  • davidgnews Apr 2, 7:43 p.m.

    Maybe if they would change from a PAPER system to an actual COMPUTER system they could realize some efficiency.

    The DoD is totally irresponsible when it comes to injured veterans, and it's what put them there in the first place.

    Unfortunately for Hagan, it's window dressing and all about votes. And photo ops.

  • affirmativediversity Apr 2, 6:54 p.m.

    Yes it must be getting close to campaign kick off time...Kay Hagan has apparently remembered she's suppose to represent North Carolina AND this is the 3rd or so story I've seen on WRAL alone that touts her "I'm looking after the folks" creds...

    Seriously Kay no one is going to fall for it...too many of us remember that you hadn't even unpacked your suitcase in DC before you'd voted for a trillion dollar porkfest that the majority of NC citizens did not support...oh and we most definitely haven't forgot Obamacare and your rabid support for that AND just think all those new taxes will be hitting people just as you're asking for their vote...LOL

  • TVs_Deceit Apr 2, 6:28 p.m.

    Wow. She wrote a letter. Wow. What a tireless worker. Only took her about five and a half years too. That's dedication. That's concern. That's caring.

    And by the way, don't forget, not that this site will let you, she's up for re-election this year. I'm sure that it's just a coincidence that her campaign has started and she finally got around to writing a letter.

  • cushioncritter Apr 2, 3:14 p.m.

    Having a candidate like Renee Elmers running and vigorously attacking Kay Hagan will end this charade of Hagan pretending to be a moderate/conservative after voting for ObamaCare. Kay Hagan could care less about veterans who have served multiple combat tours of duty and return with PTSD (in WW II soldiers only served one tour because they knew more tours meant PTSD). Kay Hagan undoubtedly wants to turn mental health facilities into destination parks.