Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Crushing Government (#1)

The news from the Veterans Administration is alarming. has found

More than 37,100 veterans are waiting an average of 263 days for the Houston VA Regional Office to process their claims for disability benefits, according to data obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

Despite an influx of funding and staff at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the backlog of claims in Houston has more than doubled since this time four years ago, when the VA reported 17,537 pending claims.

The Houston regional office is one of only two VA facilities in Texas that process veterans' disability claims. The other is in Waco, where the problem is even worse: More than 51,000 veterans face an average wait of 352 days...

VA spokeswoman Jessica Jacobsen said the department has completed a record number of disability claims — more than 1 million nationwide — in each of the past two years by adding employees, technology and training. But the volume of incoming claims has grown at an even faster pace, from 888,000 in 2008 to 1.3 million last year.

Jacobsen attributed the record backlog to a number of factors, including a poor economy, an aging veteran population and increased demand after many years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA also has had to allocate significant resources to processing hundreds of thousands of new claims filed by Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, she said.

Despite these challenges, Jacobsen said the VA is on target to eliminate the backlog by 2015.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says President Obama needs to step up "and deliver for our veterans."     What, though, is Mitt Romney's answer?     He told us on June 8 when, responding to Obama's (not entirely inaccurate) gaffe "the private sector is doing fine," he crowed

he wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.

But he wouldn't cut services for veterans, would he?    Only if he could.    On March 20, Romney asserted "I'm very supportive of the (chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul) Ryan budget plan. It's a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it's very much consistent with what I put out earlier."

In order even to approach his deficit estimates while increasing the defense budget, Ryan would have to eliminate virtually all non-discretionary domestic spending.      Arguing that health care subsidies and income supports for poor people would outstrip Medicare cuts, Ezra Klein explained

The biggest category of cuts is “everything else,” which shrinks to implausibly low levels, and Ryan, to my knowledge, has never detailed, even in broad strokes, how he gets it that low. But since he’s opposed to further defense cuts — he in fact raises spending on defense in the next 10 years — it seems inevitable that the non-defense side of “everything else” would have to shrink considerably, and that means cutting quite a bit from income supports and veterans’ benefits and infrastructure. 

Take an overburdened Veterans Administration.      Then, as candidate Romney prescribes, subtract government workers, cut taxes further for the wealthy, and increase spending for defense. The result for disabled veterans is not a pleasant one.

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