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Backlog of veteran disability claims and appeals

Thousands of veterans are dying while waiting for disability claims and appeals to be processed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says nearly 600,000 claims are backlogged.
Those veterans have been waiting four months or *more for their cases to be heard.
The average wait for a decision is almost nine months.

One group is so upset about the number of backlogged claims, it's campaigning for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to be fired.
"Concerned Veterans for America", a conservative non-profit organization, has posted a web video slamming Shinseki and calling for new leadership.
Meantime 67 US senators have signed a letter urging President Obama to take direct action.
Though they've stopped short of calling for Shinseki's resignation.

Steven Smith, Veteran: "I joined in August of 1978 and retired in August of 1998."
Steven Smith, a Marine Corps Veteran in Perdido Key, says he's been fighting for disability benefits for back injuries for more than a decade.
He says it took nearly two years to get a decision on a recent appeal.
Steven Smith, Veteran: "It's not just me. I just know so many guys out there that are dealing with the same thing and so many guys that quit and that's where it really, really bothers me 'cause some of these guys are in a lot of pain, they can't work..."

To deal with the problem, the VA is forcing employees to work mandatory overtime.
It's also replacing paper claims with a digital process.

Shinseki says the backlog will be cleared by 2015.
Steven Smith, Veteran: "It's just really irritating to know the backlog is there. But I would think it would probably be double if a lot of the veterans that just gave up would go back and try again."

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review found nearly three-thousand cases over the last four years in which veterans or their spouses died before getting decisions on their appeals.