Hagan pushes VA on NC claims backlog

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.-- U.S. Senator Kay Hagan has sent a letter to Veteran's Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki urging his office send help to the Winston-Salem Regional Benefits office and ease the backlog that she calls "deplorable."

Hagan sent the letter last week outlining concerns, saying more than 7000 veterans have been waiting at least a year for the office to respond to their disability claims, more than 700 waiting for nearly 2 years. She says that wait time is alarming.

"To me it is unacceptable that this is the way we are caring for the men and women who put their lives on the line for each one of us," Hagan said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

Hagan says North Carolina's reputation as a veteran friendly state is compromised when the VA Benefits office's here have some of the slowest response times in the Southeast.

"We can not wait any longer. We have got to address this issue and if it's manpower, we need to address it immediately," Hagan says.

The VA's Winston-Salem Regional Benefits office recently captured national attention when the Inspector General for the VA. issued a report saying the backlog of files stacked around the office made the workplace, "unsafe." The report also said all the files, "compromised the integrity of the building."

A representative with the Winston-Salem benefits office says it has since changed its filing system and moved more than 6000 files not in current use to an off site storage facility.

Hagan says the VA. has not responded to her letter.