Caring for Veterans

April 23, 2010 • Volume 20, Issue 16
Does the VA adequately serve wounded vets?
By Peter Katel


Sgt. Darrell “J.R.” Salzman practices fly tying (AP Photo/Timothy Jacobsen)
Minnesota National Guard Sgt. Darrell “J. R.” Salzman, 27, practices fly tying using his prosthesis at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 2007. Salzman — one of the more than 37,000 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan — lost his arm when his Humvee struck an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Timothy Jacobsen)

Battle-scarred veterans often spend more time waiting for decisions from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on their disability claims than they spent at war. At least 500,000 veterans have waited an average of six months for a decision on a disability claim and another 200,000 have waited an average of five years for a decision on an appeal. New VA Secretary Eric Shinseki — himself a disabled Vietnam vet — vows to unblock the huge claims backlog, but it may take until 2015. That's partly because the VA has expanded the number of compensation-worthy illnesses from the Vietnam War. Veterans' organizations laud Shinseki but disagree over how deeply VA changes should run. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Congress are close to passing legislation to compensate relatives and friends caring for veterans with catastrophic, lifelong disabilities such as traumatic brain injuries arising from improvised explosive devices — the devastating homemade bombs that are the hallmark of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Disabled Persons
Apr. 23, 2010  Caring for Veterans
Dec. 20, 1996  Implementing the Disabilities Act
Dec. 27, 1991  The Disabilities Act
Mar. 16, 1984  New Opportunities for the Disabled
Jul. 24, 1981  Mainstreaming: Handicapped Children in the Classroom
Nov. 22, 1974  Rights of the Handicapped
Nov. 11, 1950  Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons
Veterans' Services