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East County Times: VA Backlog Unacceptable

May 2, 2013
Recent media reports have revealed that the Veterans Affairs’ regional office in Baltimore has the biggest backlog and highest rate of error in the country. One of my office’s top priorities is working with local veterans caught in government red tape and I’ve witnessed the frustrations of many in the VA backlog first-hand. The situation is and has been unacceptable for years. 
Across the country, most veterans wait about 273 days for their benefits claim to be evaluated. But here in Maryland, the average wait-time is a staggering 332 days – or 11 full months – and some take far longer. Moreover, a whopping 26 percent of its decisions rendered are erroneous.
This week, members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation sat down with U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki for an update on his plan to improve service for the 450,000 veterans in Maryland served by the Baltimore office.  I was pleased to hear the office will receive an influx of senior staff, more training for lower-level staff and a new digital processing system.  But more must be done. We asked that the VA’s staff in Baltimore meet regularly with our Congressional caseworkers for progress reports on individual cases. 
Along with the rest of Team Maryland, I am committed to improving services for our veterans and their families so that they get the benefits they earned in a timely manner.