Despite the fact that the Department of Veterans Affairs Budget has more than doubled – to about $120 billion – since 2004, it and the Pentagon are falling further behind in assessing whether or not veterans are due disability benefits. This chart, from a Government Accountability Office statement released Wednesday, tells the story: it now takes the average soldier more than a year to begin receiving benefits. The share of active-duty vets whose claims were handled by the DoD-VA goal of 295 days dropped from 63% in 2008 to 19% last year.
Just as alarming, the GAO suggested that the Pentagon and VA are fudging data to show more vets are happy with the process than actually are. This is distressing because the VA’s own inspector general recently found that while the agency was saying that 95% of vets seeking mental-health care get a full screening within its 14-day goal, the IG said 49% wait 50 days before getting such treatment. “Whereas DOD’s calculation results in an overall satisfaction rate of about 67 percent since the inception of [Integrated Disability Evaluation System], GAO’s alternate calculation resulted in a satisfaction rate of about 24 percent,” Daniel Bertoni of the GAO told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Wednesday.