• Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki promised to fix the broken disabilities claim system, but an internal report says things have gotten worse. (Brendan Hoffman)

    Broken Promise

    Veterans Wait As VA Backlog Builds

    A VA internal report shows that the computerized system intended to fix the benefits backlog problem is adding to it. Jamie Reno reports.

    Despite Secretary Eric Shinseki’s oft-repeated pledge to fix the Department of Veteran Affairs broken disabilities claim system by 2015, the problems have gotten worse, according to a scathing new internal report.

    Claims now take an average of 272 days to be processed—an increase of nearly 40 percent from 2011—with some lingering for as long as a year. The error rate now hovers around 14 percent, and the mountainous backlog stands at nearly 900,000, as 53 veterans reportedly die each day waiting for their benefits, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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  • Marines line up for a 'welcome home' parade in San Clemente, California last June. (Jerry Englehart Jr. / ZUMA Press via Corbis)

    TURNING THE TIDE

    Facing the Service-Member Suicide Crisis

    Marjorie Morrison details the new, proactive approach to therapy that she’s delivering to the First Marine Regiment.

    “There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines,” said U.S. Army Gen. William Thornson: “Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.”

    Working with the Corps to try and help stem its suicide crisis, I have come to learn that there is some truth to that claim—but if we can’t bridge that gap, things aren’t going to change.

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  • President Barack Obama salutes cadets as he arrives in Falcon Stadium for graduation ceremonies for the Air Force Academy Class of 2012 graduation ceremonies on Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Mark Ries / Getty Images)

    What War?

    Troops MIA at Presidential Debate

    The troops didn’t rate a mention at Tuesday’s debate. Marjorie Morrison on the opportunity we’re missing.

    Two presidential debates and no real mention of our troops, despite the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

    Here’s why: 68 percent of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is going somewhat or very badly, and the same percentage thinks we should withdraw entirely or start drawing down troops now. Compound that with less than 1 percent of Americans serving in the active-duty military, so much of the nation feels no real stake in or connection to the war effort. That disconnect and distance helps explain how, at this time of collapsing support for the government, the press, and other institutions, three of four Americans say they’ve maintained their confidence in the military.

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  • Chris Hondros / Getty Images

    CRISIS

    Army Stands Down for Suicide Training

    Marjorie Morrison details the names and personal stories behind the dispiriting statistics.

    As the Army grapples with a record suicide rate, it held an unprecedented service-wide stand-down at bases around the world Thursday to dedicate the full day to mandatory suicide-prevention training. This came after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that lowering the rate of suicide in the military is a top priority, saying “leaders ought to be judged by how they lead on this issue."

    Having worked as a mental-health clinician with service members, I know the dispiriting statistics are attached to names and personal stories.

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