Delays in veteran care due to backlogs creating mental health crisis


According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), about 20 percent of the 2.5 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Further, the current suicide rate for U.S. war veterans is about fifty percent - half of all vets are likely to attempt suicide within their lifetime (a new study says 22 vets attempt to kill themselves every day), often within the first couple of years of returning from service.

About half of all recent veterans get their healthcare from the VA, but about 24 percent of those are getting little or no medical attention because of a backlog of pending claims at the VA. Early this month, the VA admitted that nearly 640,000 veterans' claims are sitting in that backlog, over half of which having exceeding the 125-day deadline for benefits the VA imposes on veterans who file.

Quite often, this backlog and deadline clash, creating a scenario where a veteran who applies for benefits is denied benefits because his or her application was not processed within the deadline.

Currently, the average wait for a veteran filing a supplemental disability claim is 273 days while first-time claims could take over a year (372 days, average). It can take more than two years for family members to learn if they are eligible for benefits.

On Monday morning, the tenth annual Storm the Hill campaign converged on Washington, D.C. Veterans and supporters canvassed Capital Hill in D.C. to raise awareness and demand action from lawmakers.

According to the IAVA, the backlog of wait, the regular denials of benefits to veterans, and the stresses of PTSD and other issues facing veterans are a large part of the overall suicide rate that plagues their ranks. It's one of the largest mental health issues facing our nation today.


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