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Disability claims backlog continues to be a problem for veterans in Nevada

Nevada veterans currently wait an average of 248 days for a disability claim to be completed, making access to VA health care in this state one of the longest hold-ups in the nation.

Since July, the average wait time has been cut down by almost 100 days, but Republican Senator Dean Heller says the backlog is still too long. This is especially critical when veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or need urgent access to mental health care but aren’t able to get the treatment they need because their claims have not been approved.

“With 22 veteran suicides a day and nearly 600 veteran suicides in Nevada over the last five years, it is clear that something must be done to improve the current state of mental health services at the VA."

That’s Heller speaking at a recent Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing. According to Heller, once patients finally get their claims approved, they wait an average of 23 days in Reno and 46 days in Las Vegas to finally see a physician.

“This claims backlog is an issue I have brought up during every Committee hearing because I believe it should be a top priority of the VA and of this Committee itself,” Heller says.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says there have been improvements to the backlog in the last two years. There were over 600 thousand people waiting for claims to be processed early last year and that number has been cut-down by almost two-thirds.

Heller, along with Democratic Senator “Bob” Casey of Pennsylvania, introduced a bipartisan bill last spring to speed up the process, but it has yet to go to a legislative hearing.

Esther Ciammachilli is a former part-time broadcaster at KUNR Public Radio.
Anh is a contributing editor for the KUNR news team and has been with the station since 2014. She is an alumna of the Boston University School of Public Health and Teachers College, Columbia University.