DANVILLE - U.S. Senator Mark Kirk visited with veterans and Veterans Affairs (VA) officials at the Illiana Health Care System to tour the system's living facilities and to discuss the continued disability claims backlog facing veterans across the nation. The average wait time for veterans disability claims in Illinois is 353 days - the sixth-highest wait time in our country.
"Illinois is home to more than 700,000 veterans, and for them to be stuck waiting for their benefits for almost a year is still unacceptable," Senator Kirk said. "Our state's 353-day waiting period is the sixth-highest in the nation, and our servicemen and women deserve better. With our bipartisan 10-point plan to reduce the backlog now in law, we will be holding the VA accountable for its full implementation over the months ahead."
During the event, Senator Kirk highlighted the case of Champaign native Colonel Royal P. Mortenson, a highly decorated, 29-year Marine Corps veteran. Colonel Mortensen, who commanded the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom and later served on the Joint Staff, waited more than 18 months to get his disability claim processed.
“I fully support the efforts of Senator Kirk and others to reduce the length of time it takes for a veteran to have his or her disability compensation claim processed and adjudicated by the Department of Veterans Affairs," Colonel Mortenson said. "The focused attention of the Senator and others will hopefully reduce VA bureaucracy and provide the VA with the resources required to meet the needs of our veterans. My claim took over 18 months from submission (July of 2012) to decision (December 2013). This is clearly unsatisfactory. And while the VA compensation review and award process has been completed in my case, I have not yet received the back dated compensation my level of disability rates. I continue to wait.”
Bob Henderson, Division 4 Director of the Illinois American Legion, also attended the visit with Senator Kirk.
"As Division 4 Director of the Illinois American Legion, not a day goes by that I don't hear from veterans about their frustrations surrounding the backlog," Henderson said. "This is the top issue for veterans across Illinois, and I thank Senator Kirk for making it his top priority. I look forward to working with Senator Kirk to ensure the VA's full participation in drastically reducing the backlog and the difficulties facing each and every veteran."
Senators Kirk and Johnson's 10-Point Plan, which was passed into law last month as part of the Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, will aid Veterans Affairs Regional Offices across the country in reducing their backlog of veterans waiting on benefit claims. The Chicago VA's wait time of 353 days is an improvement from last year's wait time of 551 days, and through the 10 point plan, the goal of the Senators is to continue to reduce the wait time and processing issues at these centers across the country.
While at the Illiana Health Care System, Senator Kirk toured The Liberty House, which is an on-site living facility for veterans. The Liberty House is one of two on-site living facilities in Danville. Both are part of The Green House concept, which provides personal care to 10 veterans in each home. Additionally, each home has personalized nurses and care assistants to ensure a positive and healthy quality of life for the veterans on-site.