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Published on Nov 10, 2013

Over the last 12 years more than two million Americans have been deployed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But for thousands who return home with injuries, another battle is just beginning – this time, with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA).

Upon enlistment service members are promised that, should a service-related injury occur, the US government will provide them with care and financial compensation. The VA is responsible for providing this care but have been unable to render these services in a timely manner. The average time a veteran waits to receive his or her benefits from the VA is one year. The growing backlog of veterans waiting for their compensation has severely tarnished the department’s public image.

In August 2010 President Obama stated it was the country’s “moral obligation” to provide veterans with timely compensation. Under VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the Obama administration promised that all claims would be processed within 125 days and with a 98 percent accuracy rating by the year 2015.

Since the President made that promise, the backlog grew and reached its peak in March of 2013 when the number of pending claims reached nearly 900,000 with 70 percent backlogged. This past August, the numbers dipped slightly: nearly 800,000 pending claims with 63 percent backlogged.

The VA points to the August numbers as a sign of improvement, but reports of processing errors reveal a poor quality of work. The VA makes a mistake in 30 percent or more of the claims that they process. When a mistake is made, the veteran must appeal. Once an appeal is filed, the average waiting time for the veteran is another four years.

About 4 minutes.

Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Joshua Swain and Winkler. Narrated by Todd Krainin.

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