Tens of thousands of Texas veterans are waiting to receive their benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as the VA.
More than 68,000 disability claims are backlogged in Texas with Veterans Affairs, and the total caseload in the state has more than doubled to 107,279 claims since January 2010, according to the Texas Veterans Commission.
Why the backlog? The executive director of the Texas Veterans Commission thinks a big reason is that the VA operates in the world of snail mail. "They really need to go to paperless claims. The process to file a claim and go through the process is 50 years old, and so that process needs to be paperless," said Thomas Palladino of the Texas Veterans Commission.
However, Palladino says the system isn't completely out of date, as the VA is trying to modernize. "One way they've updated is you can get forms online … but the VA councilors still have to sign them, they still mail them in, the still have to hand carry them in … the old-fashioned way," said Palladino.
In an ideal situation, a new vet might anticipate receiving benefits in maybe 3 months' time. Now, some vets might wait more than a year just to get an answer.
Suffice it to say, many returned vets aren't too pleased with the efficiency of the VA, something the Texas Veterans Commission understands. "They're under this cumbersome system, they're at the mercy of it. It's a benefit they deserve. No one is trying to make sure they don't get it," said Palladino.
To try and speed things up, the Texas Veterans Commission has hired an extra 34 people to work with the Houston and Waco VA Regional Centers. They say more than 17,000 Texas vets and their families will receive their disability compensation and pension payments earlier than expected.
But still, these efforts don't change the systemic issues at the Veterans Association. "So the VA, in the last five years, has been promising to go paperless, and this is the big issue at the VA level," said Palladino.
For its part, the VA has stated before different congressional committees that it plans to end all backlogs by 2015.