VA says it’s made major strides in reducing disability claims backlog in area

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SEATTLE -- The Veterans Administration is often accused of slow and ineffective service. But on Wednesday the department said things are changing for the better.

Administrators say technology is one reason for the progress.

When it comes to disability claims, they say, it means a veteran can expect a decision in a little over three months as opposed to 10 months.

“Here in Seattle, the claims backlog has been reduced by 90%, from a high of 20,000 to 1,700 claims today,” Veterans Benefits Administration Director Pritz Navaratnasingam said.

Administrators at VA Puget Sound insist they're making huge strides in serving veterans, by processing their claims faster and giving them better medical care.

“For emergent issues we see people the same day,” VA Puget Sound Acting Director Michael Tadych said.

The department has been plagued by long waits across the nation but VA Puget Sound says they have one of the shortest wait periods for mental health services with a little over a one-day wait for first-time patients.

But disabled Marine veteran Daniel Buck is skeptical.

“It feels like nobody cares,” Buck said.

Struggling with suicidal thoughts after three tours in Iraq, Buck says he saw a nurse and a social worker quickly. But when it came to follow-up care, Buck says the hospital called him twice, trying to push back their second visit for two weeks.

“In this case you are referencing, obviously something fell through the cracks and that is not acceptable. We will take a hard look at that,” Tadych said.

The VA admits there are still some problems and promised to look into Buck’s case.

Buck still believes the VA needs more oversight so other veterans on the verge of suicide get the help they deserve.

“We shouldered up ... we did our job and please just do yours,” Buck said.

When it comes to health care, some of the challenges the VA faces are a lack of space and not enough doctors.