: "The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to cope with tens of thousands of veterans filing for disability benefits. Because there are applicants from two current wars — plus a new wave from the first Gulf War and Vietnam — thousands are now stuck in the clogged pipeline." Although there are differing estimates of how many, "everyone agrees that way too many vets are waiting way too long to get benefits. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is experimenting with ways to get the old, crippled bureaucracy to do better. The number of outstanding claims at the VA for service-related disabilities — amputations, injured limbs, PTSD, brain trauma — hovers around 500,000. Nearly 40 percent of those have been waiting on a decision for more than four months." Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense says the complexity of the VA system is the problem. "And Sullivan says the department's problems are only beginning." A large number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have filed disability claims. "Those tidal waves will be rolled in by Secretary Shinseki's new rules allowing claims from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam and chemical exposure in the first Gulf War." This story is the second of a five-part series (McChesney, 5/11).
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