Give veterans their benefits

Given the sacrifices our nation’s veterans make, they should not have to worry about getting needed benefits when they come home.

Unfortunately, too often our best and bravest have to wait to receive disability and other benefits because of paperwork.

As U.S. Sen. Charles?Schumer recently noted, currently, a veteran has one set of health records for health care under the Department of Defense and a different, incompatible set of records must be created for benefits and health care service by the Department of Veterans Affairs. During the transition from active duty to separation and retirement, it takes the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration a significant amount of time to access and analyze DOD medical treatment records.

Schumer noted because of the time it takes to get the records created, there are nearly 15,000 backlogged claims in upstate New York alone – among those are about 1,762 in the Capital Region.

How bad is the wait for veterans? Schumer noted New York veterans wait an average of 400 days to start receiving veterans benefits.

That’s shameful. Troops who have left a war zone deserve to have some peace of mind when they come home; they should not have to worry about waiting more than a year for their benefits to come through.

Schumer is calling for the DOD and the VA to create an electronic health records system to speed up processing and ensure every service member has a continuous health record.

Schumer also wants to require the VA to establish a task force to hire and train additional claims processors, to define monthly processing goals and to publicly document progress toward eliminating the backlog of claims.

Clearly, these claims need to be addressed. Schumer’s proposal deserves serious consideration.