The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

July 12, 2013

Veterans backlog targeted

Casey group aims to speed up treatment

JOHNSTOWN — Pennsylvania veterans, including those from the Laurel Highlands, face one of the nation’s worst backlogs when they attempt to acquire benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat, wants to see that change.

On Thursday, the state’s senior senator, along with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., announced the formation of the VA Backlog Working Group. The organization, consisting of the two senators and their staffers, will gather information from lawmakers, veterans and service organizations. They hope to issue a report, outlining ways to solve the backlog, sometime this fall.

The goal of the group is to fix a problem Casey feels has gotten “exponentially worse” in recent years.

“(Providing benefits) is one of the few ways our government can express a measure of gratitude for those who have done so much on our behalf,” said Casey.

A Veterans Benefits Administration Office of Performance Analysis and Integrity report, which was issued in the spring, showed applicants were waiting an average of 625 days for responses through the Pittsburgh VA Regional Office. The wait was 510.3 days through the Philadelphia headquarters. Those numbers have since decreased to 474 for Pittsburgh and 356 for Philadelphia, according to Casey.

A claim is considered to be backlogged when it has been pending 125 days or longer.

“They’re going in the right direction and that’s good progress, but even at 356 that’s a heck of a lot higher than 125,” said Casey.

The backlog is attributed to a number of factors, including an influx of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, claims becoming more complex because of serious wounds requiring long-term medical attention, relaxing of post-traumatic stress disorder requirements, an antiquated paper-based VA recording system and an increase of Agent Orange presumptive cases among Vietnam servicemen.

“We’ve been given a lot of excuses,” said Heller, who added, “We’re not really solving the problem.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Fire1.JPG Neighbors rouse residents from West End fire

    Vincent Freedman was asleep in a duplex in Johnstown’s West End early Monday when he was awakened by pounding on the door.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • mundys corner wreck 22 Motorcyclist injured on Rt. 271 in Mundys Corner

    An accident reconstruction team was brought in to process a crash scene involving a motorcycle and tri-axle truck on Route 271, investigators said.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rents change with new rules

    A change in federal housing regulations raises the rent for 28 public housing tenants and reduces the rent for 29 tenants in Johnstown Housing Authority communities.

    July 21, 2014

  • Memorial programs recognized

    A national hospital ranking report recognizes Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center as high performing in four categories.

    July 21, 2014

  • Residents seek Sonman memorial

    Relatives of workers involved in one of the biggest mine disasters in the region’s history are working to keep the victims’ memories from fading. Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the 1940 Sonman Mine explosion, which claimed 63 lives.

    July 21, 2014

  • Foul play ruled out in train fatality

    Foul play has been ruled out in the death of a Windber man found struck by a train near Seward early Sunday, investigators say.

    July 21, 2014

  • Correction 07/22/2014

    July 21, 2014

  • Concussion prevention project progressing

    A Johnstown-area hospital and school district are a step ahead of the president's call for more research into sports injuries, having developed a groundbreaking concussion-prevention program aimed at helping all athletes, particularly students, avoid brain injuries.

    July 21, 2014

  • Local briefs 7/22/2014

    July 21, 2014

  • Pennsylvania sees 3rd rating downgrade in 2 years

    New York-based credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service is slapping a lower rating on Pennsylvania’s debt for the second time in two years, as state government grapples annually with built-in budget deficits.

    July 21, 2014

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads