KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

VA Focuses On Female Veterans’ Struggles, Disability Claims Backlog

News outlets explore issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is seeking to cut a backlog in disability claims and also address the needs of female veterans.

CBS News: "More than 212,000 female service members have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan -- 11 percent of the total force. One hundred twenty have been killed in action and more than 600 wounded, but the losses don't end there." A recent report by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association called "Women Warriors" says "homelessness among young returning female fighters is on the rise" and "female veterans earn on average $10,000 a year less in civilian jobs than male vets, making it harder to afford a home. And less than 5 percent of the homeless shelters run by the Veterans Affairs Department offer women separate housing from men. ... The VA says on any given night there are an estimated 6,500 homeless female vets" (Mitchell, 2/21).

The (Connecticut) Day: The VA is trying to address backlogged disability claims. "The VA expects a 30 percent increase in benefit claims over last year's levels, and because of that the 2011 budget includes funding for hiring more than 4,000 additional claims processors." Tammy Duckworth, a U.S. assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs, "said the claims processing system was a lot of 'paper-based work' and hoped to speed up that process with the hiring of more workers and an eventual switch to an electronic record-keeping system in the next year or two. The electronic system would track a veteran from nearly the moment he or she files the first paperwork until the day he or she is buried, Duckworth said. It would eliminate the burden currently on veterans to prove certain injuries and health issues and eliminate bureaucratic delays" (Naughton, 2/20).

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