Here's where the "Support The Troops" jingoistic rhetoric degenerates into the hyprocisy that it often really is. This situation was predictable and should have been planned for. As I said last year on this blog, we have a new generation of veterans and their families that will suffer just like the Viet Nam generation and their families suffered.
Soldiers from Michigan who risked their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning home to a veterans' benefit system that is overwhelmed, causing delays in medical and mental health treatment.
"I'm very frustrated I can't get the treatment I need," said Nathaniel Ganzeveld, 22, of Dearborn, a discharged lance corporal in the Marine Reserves who fought in Iraq and who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Ganzeveld says he has waited five months for any determination on most of his claim.
The problems in Michigan are part of a national logjam of 334,611 veterans from across the country who awaited approval of benefits at the end of October, according to statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs. That is 40 percent more than the VA says it deems optimal, and far beyond what members of Congress and veterans' groups consider justified.
Since the end of October 2003, the number of pending cases has jumped 14 percent.
Many veterans are waiting for nearly six months. From October 2003 to October 2004, the number of cases pending nationally for more than 180 days increased by about 25 percent, from 57,414 to 71,406.
The VA averages 160 days to process claims, 60 percent longer than its goal and far beyond the 60 to 90 days veterans are promised. In Metro Detroit, the VA says the average wait is 111 days. But veterans dispute that assessment and say they are often waiting six months for necessary treatment and services. Some say just getting the process started often takes months.
"If you're dying of cancer, why should you wait 60 days?" said U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, a veteran of World War II after whom the Detroit VA hospital is named.
Dingell has been aware of VA issues for some time, but he's now more keenly aware of the problems involving returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.