As the war in Afghanistan winds down, a greater focus will surely be placed on the issues facing wounded veterans over the next several years. The substantial backlog vets face when applying for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the most significant of these challenges. In an effort to address these concerns, President Barack Obama is set to speak to the Disabled American Veterans on Saturday, according to an announcement from the organization.
What will he say?
While no transcript has been released, Obama will likely touch on what efforts are being made to address the significant backlog. Specifically, the VA has about 797,000 pending claims to address, but it's not just the number that's raising the largest amount of concerns. About two-thirds of those claims have had to wait longer than 125 days to have their claims processed, while some have to wait a year.
"A central discussion will be what actions the VA and Congress are implementing to eliminate the backlog for delivering benefits to veterans," the DAV said.
What has been done?
The White House has already taken some steps to help bring down the backlog. Most recently, officials proposed a 13.6 percent increase to funding for veterans benefits in the hopes that it would make the process go a bit more quickly. However, the White House, as well as the VA and the Department of Defense, has been focused more intently on developing a paperless claim system to not only help curtail the backlog, but also to improve record keeping. The hope is that it will be in place by 2015, according to The Hill.
Addressing the backlog and helping wounded veterans is going to be especially important in the coming months and years as thousands of troops return from Afghanistan. By 2012, more than 50,000 servicemembers had been wounded over the last decade-plus of war, according to the DOD.
Just one stop?
While Obama will speak at the DAV meeting, it's not the only time he plans to open discussions with servicemembers. On Thursday, he is expected to visit Camp Pendleton in California to visit the active duty troops stationed there, according to his press secretary.