August 30, 2006

WASHINGTON – In an effort to “avert a full-blown crisis within the VA,” Congressman Ted Strickland sent a letter to Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary James Nicholson expressing his concern about a growing backlog of benefits claims in the VA system.

“I have been contacted by several veterans in my District who have made me aware of the substantial length of time it takes to settle a VA claim,” Strickland said. “It is my understanding there is a backlog of several thousand claims in the Cleveland VA office alone.

“If there is something my Congressional colleagues or I can do to alleviate this wait for those who have served our country so honorably, I urge Sec. Nicholson to communicate to the Congress what actions we should take to address the backlog,” Strickland said.

Ohio is one of six states Congress designated as “special outreach” because of the disproportionately low amount paid out in benefits to veterans who file claims, and the VA must take special steps to ensure Ohio ’s veterans receive just compensation. The VA office in Cleveland , which processes claims for many veterans in the Sixth Congressional District, has seen a steady increase in the number of claims being filed and processed, and the subsequent backlog is delaying claims.

“The intent of this letter is not to criticize or find fault,” Strickland wrote, “but instead to ascertain how my colleagues and I in Congress can assist the VA in alleviating these drastically high pending claims. I know the VA is in the process of hiring additional claims processors, and that is a positive step.

“However, given the ever increasing number of veterans returning home from serving overseas, we must take aggressive, immediate action to avert a full-blown crisis within the VA,” Strickland wrote.

“Our service men and women have answered – and continue to answer -- their country’s call to serve,” Strickland said. “We should do everything in our power to ensure their calls for help are addressed as quickly as possible, whether it’s supplying additional funding, manpower or technical upgrades. We owe that to our veterans.”

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