The Department of Veterans Affairs warns the longer the federal shutdown drags on, the more its progress on the backlog of veteran disability claims is hampered. According to this report from the Washington Post, the VA warned Tuesday evening that it can no longer pay overtime to claims processors, an initiative officials credit with decreasing the backlog by 30 percent in the last six months.
In a statement, the VA said, “Due to the government shutdown, this clear progress for veterans and their families is at risk without immediate action by Congress to make fiscal year 2014 funding available.” Read more.
Veterans groups are concerned a prolonged government shutdown in Washington could disrupt disability benefits and pension payments. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs has exempted its claims processors from the shutdown in order to deal with the large backlog, the VA confirmed the department will run out of funding by the end of October if a resolution is not passed, according to the Washington Post.
An official with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization said losing the payments would have a devastating impact on severely wounded and disabled veterans whose livelihoods depend on VA benefits.
The number of pain killers and narcotics being prescribed to veterans returning home has skyrocketed, according to a CBS News report that found some veterans are dying of accidental overdoses at a higher rate than the general public. Meanwhile, VA physicians said they felt pressured by administrators to prescribe narcotics and were concerned patients were not being properly monitored.
According to VA records, the number of narcotic prescriptions written to veterans is up 259 percent over the past 11 years. Read more.
The suspect in Monday’s deadly shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., had sought treatment for mental health problems from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to investigators.
Officials said Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy reservist, sought treatment for paranoia and told others he had been “hearing voices.” Navy officials also reported behavioral issues, citing up to ten conduct offenses over the course of the four years Alexis spent in the Navy.
Monday’s shooting left 13 dead, including Alexis, and eight wounded. Read more.
Several directors of VA hospitals around the country were awarded thousands of dollars in bonuses in 2012, all while veterans were exposed to debilitating ailments such as Legionnaire’s disease, hepatitis and mental health issues, some cases resulting in death.
“Going to an American hospital, for a veteran, shouldn’t require more courage than storming the beach at Normandy,” said “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart. Watch now.
Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are, on the whole, younger than other vets who served prior and they may be at greater risk for homelessness, according to a report from the News21 program.
In particular, post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other mental and behavioral health issues are some of the leading causes of homelessness among post-9/11 veterans. Groups such as Vet Hunters and various shelters are working to find vets and address their issues in an effort to curb homelessness. Read more.
The national unemployment rate for disabled workers is nearly 15 percent, almost double the rate for the general public. New rules announced by the Labor Department this week could help disabled workers land more jobs, according to the Associated Press.
Under the new requirements, most government contractors will have to meet certain employment standards, having disabled workers make up at least 7 percent of their workforce.
Despite a growing backlog of disability claims and appeals, the Department of Veterans Affairs gave workers millions in bonuses through a system that values quantity over quality, according to an investigative report from the Carnegie-Knight News21 program.
VA claims processors said they were encouraged to avoid complex claims that needed extra work to verify veterans’ injuries and disabilities in order to meet performance standards. As of September 2012, veterans injured on duty waited more than 429 days on average for their claims to be handled while those appealing decisions often waited for years to receive help.
Tremendous advances have been made in the medical field within the past decade, thus making it easier for those who lose limbs either in war or for another reason to regain their physical abilities. James Dao talks with veterans who have lost limbs in various wars, as well as experts and others who emphasized the importance of adaptive sports and other support systems to help those with injuries.
Haller says that journalists often miss opportunities to report on important issues happening in the community of people with disabilities, such as disability rights laws, the lack of accessible housing in various cities or discrimination against people with particular disabilities, for example.
Robitaille also joins the conversation and discusses her views on the state of disability in the news media and how journalism on these topics can be covered more deeply and with greater precision. She explains the complex nature of defining disability on both societal and individual levels, along with the troubles she saw with NPR’s recent reports, “Unfit for Work.”