The latest complaint about delays by the Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t coming from veterans seeking help. It’s coming from Congress. And Congress has a point.
At a House committee hearing last week, lawmakers rightly voiced frustration that the VA responds too slowly to its requests for information.
The chairman pointed to pending requests related to safety issues at VA facilities, including a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the VA’s Pittsburgh facility. Five veterans died amid what the VA’s inspector general described as VA mismanagement.
It is true that the VA answered more than 80,000 congressional requests over three fiscal years. But for a VA official to downplay the requests as excessive discounts the important role of congressional oversight.
Of course congressional questions have mounted as veterans filing disability claims have faced long delays. The administration is working to reduce that backlog — claims pending longer than 125 days dropped from 611,000 in March to 500,000 in August.
This nation sent some 2.5 million men and women to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tens of thousands carry visible wounds. Roughly half a million came home with post-traumatic stress disorder.
As the VA clears the claims backlog, it needs to better juggle competing demands. Lawmakers aren’t arbitrarily asking questions. They are doing their jobs so the nation can do better for those who served.