Photo By The U.S. Army (Warrior Transition Brigade) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
America employs the largest volunteer military force in the world. In order to accomplish this without conscription, the government promises to take care of troops when they leave the service, including any injuries suffered while serving the nation.
Most men and women serving in the military do so out of a sense of duty and nationalism; family tradition, patriotic spirit or belief in the future of the country might all factor heavily in the individual decision. Regardless, they are recruited with not only the promise of education and specialized training, but also the benefit of health care.
The current backlog for veterans applying for disability benefits after returning from war is staggering. Some have waited as long as 1 or 2 years, and in 2013 it took an average of 378 days to process a claim, according to the annual report released by the VA.
Washington and the Pentagon seem to throw their hands up in despair, claiming they are doing the best they can. Yet we have heard no discussion about solutions that could actually get results and serve our veterans with less shameful failure. These men and women fought for our country. They shouldn’t have to fight for their own benefits. They shouldn’t die while waiting for paperwork.
To begin with, many veterans are looking for work. Why not use some of their understanding of veteran issues to expand the VA services personnel to accommodate the backlog? These men and women already have a working knowledge of “governmentesse,” the language used by the military. The vast usage of acronyms alone is enough to offer a multi-volume set of books. Veterans are better qualified than those who have never served to be able to complete this process of application efficiently and accurately.
Chuck Hagel answers questions at a town hall style meeting for disable veterans. January, 2014. Photo By Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Secondly, we could reassign people already working within the government that are experienced with disability claims. The Department of Education has their own disability division, which refuses to accept the disability claims approved through the Social Security Administration’s more than thorough disability process and determination. Their purpose is to make it virtually impossible for disabled students to qualify under their guidelines and prevent the discharge of remaining student loans if someone becomes disabled before those loans are paid off. With a bit of retraining to understand that the veterans DESERVE the benefits and it is the purpose of the VA to provide them, these people could assist the VA with the backlog.
The Department of Education needs to accept SSA disability determinations that entitle discharge of student loan debt to disabled students. This “way of doing business” is discriminatory and a waste of taxpayer money. It is belittling and humiliating to the disabled student. I would know – I am one they are doing it to.
I don’t know about you, but I happen to think caring for our troops is far more important than punishing disabled students.