By Olivier Knox
President Barack Obama is “deadly serious” about wiping out the massive backlog in veterans’ disability benefits claims by 2015, White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday. A leading veterans group said Obama must still show that he is “personally” involved in resolving the issue.
The problem predates Obama’s arrival in office. But solutions have been slow in coming. According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), 865,265 veterans had disability claims pending with Veterans Affairs as of May 25. And 575,825 had been waiting for at least 125 days. It’s an issue that has attracted attention from various quarters—including a devastating report from “The Daily Show.”
“We believe very strongly that this is something that requires commitment and dedication every day,” Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. “The president is deadly serious about the need to deal with this problem. He’s made clear that he expects results.”
“Too many veterans are waiting far too long to receive the benefits that they have earned and deserve,” Carney said. “And it’s unacceptable.” He noted that Obama has directed Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to eliminate the backlog by 2015, saying the issue as being “monitored regularly here at the White House.”
Carney’s words drew measured praise from IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff. “It’s great to hear through the President’s spokesperson that he is ‘deadly serious’ about reducing the backlog – because this is deadly serious to hundreds of thousands of veterans,” Rieckhoff said in a statement emailed to Yahoo News.
“Yet, veterans still need the President to personally address this issue. We continue to hear daily from veterans with injuries who are waiting an acceptable amount of time for decisions,” Rieckhoff underlined. “The Commander-in-Chief must offer them clarity on how the backlog will end by 2015, what they should do while they wait to hear from the VA, and what concrete steps he will take to end the bureaucratic logjam that has helped cause this problem.”
Carney’s comments came after another senior IAVA official told the ABC/Yahoo News program “Top Line” that Obama needed to “step up” and offer a plan for reducing the backlog.