CEDAR RAPIDS --- A decade-long deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan coupled with an aging population of World War II and Korean War veterans has created an “embarrassing backlog” in veterans services, 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley said Wednesday.

“Our veterans deserve the benefits they’ve earned putting their lives on the line for our country,” Braley said in a conference calls with reporters. “Unfortunately, the disability claims backlog at the (Veterans Administration) is making many veterans feel like second class citizens.”

The Waterloo Democrat has urged the VA to devote “all possible resources” to reducing the backlog, but Braley said the agency is not acting fast enough.

“If they’re not going to do something about this embarrassing backlog, I will,” he said. Veterans whose claims are tangled in red tape may request from his office by logging on to http://braley.house.gov/helpingveterans.

The VA is facing a record backlog in processing veterans disability benefits claims. The process normally takes nine months on average, but in some recent cases has been taking years.

According to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, over the last four years, pending claims at the VA have increased by more than 2,000 percent. For veterans who submit a first-time disability claim, the average wait time is between 316 and 327 days; many veterans wait even longer.

In May, Braley sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki calling on him to end the Veterans Affairs’ backlog of more than 600,000 disability claims and urging him to dedicate all possible resources toward end the backlog.

“The magnitude of the problem at the VA is remarkable,” Braley wrote. “It’s embarrassing that over a half million of our veterans are unable to get the benefits they deserve because of bureaucratic inefficiency.”

To date, nearly 20,000 veterans have died while waiting for their disability claims to be processed, he added.

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