The Rachel Maddow Show | August 17, 2012
>>> i moved to western massachusetts in 1998 when i was something very sad called abd. as in all but dissertation. i had finished all my coursework and everything else for my degree but not my thesis. my idea is that i would live in undistracted bucolic bliss in order to finish the darn thing. it took me years but i did finish. to the extent that finishing the darn thing meant having to work in libraries, i did most of my work at the web dubois library at am hertz. it is the tallest university library in the world, almost 30 stories. western massachusetts is more of a 19th century barn and a couple of cows kind of place. but the campus library is this big tall brick tower. you can see it from everywhere. and here's the weird thing. the whole time i was squeezing blood from that stone, the whole time i was writing my des sertation, there was this temporary looking chain link fence that went around the building. these are pictures of the fence from back in the day that the meant you couldn't just walk up to the building except through one tiny alley of space. it's a giant building visible from everywhere. but when you got there, you had to enter through this tiny colored alley like cut through because of the building's unfortunate habit of dropping bricks off its facade. so the fence kept you far enough away from the building that they would not hit you on the head and the one little alley was covered up by a roof that would protect you if the bricks did fall. local legend had it the architects who designed the library in the late '60s made a lot of neat plans but did not plan for the weight of the books. and so the bricks popped off. you might have heard a similar architecture are rumor about a library near you. i say it's an urban legend because brick chips have been falling off that library at u mass amherst for decades but apparently the weight of the books accuse was a legend and never substantiated. maybe not true. not why that problem was happening. to prove i'm an old person, these days that ugly chain link fence is gone but it's because it's been replaced by a prettier fence because they still have the same trouble. there is a place where the factoring in the weight of the building's content legend turns out to be a real thing. there's a new inspector general report out about this federal government regional office in north carolina . and in this new report, the inspectors describe what the building's contents were doing to the building's structure. the building's contents "created an unsafe work space for employees and appeared to have the potential to compromise the integrity of the building. the contents exceed the capacity of the floor by prol 39 pounds per square feet . the excess weight can compromise the whole sixth floor of the facility. we noticed floors bowing under the excess weight." what could possibly be causing the floors to be buckling? tag da. this turns out to be a veterans administration office. a va office. so naturally, what is so out of control that is potentially destroying the building are files. tens of thousands of pounds of claims files. an estimated 37,000 of them stacked on top of file cabinet anderson in botches on the floor, causing the floors to bow to the point that inspectors could see the cabinets were not level.
>> an after the inspection, the va decided to shift a lot of that paperwork out of the building and figure out how to store it better which may make the building safer but doesn't solve the real problem. the site of all of those files stacked up in those piles in just one of the regional offices is sort of a astounding confirmation of a statistic. the va is wading through 900,000 claims from america's veterans. that's close to a million veteran who's filed their paperwork for services they need and still waiting to hear back whether or not they're going to get them. if you are a veteran waiting right now, if you haven't already been waiting for four months, you're not even counted yet in that backlog. in oakland in the san francisco bay area , the wait for vets is more like ten months. in phoenix, arizona, the wait is more like a year. in central texas , it is more than a year. veterans are waiting that long to even hear back about whether or not they are getting what they are owed. we've seen multiple congressional hearings on this heard va promises to do better, claims that they are making progress. lots of talk from them about digitizing records to make them easier to be processed. this does not look like progress has progressed far enough. moving this stuff out of this one building to another building an might not fall down under the weight of the paper is a necessary first step. but i would hesitate to even call it a step forward . to the good people who work at the va, we are all counting on you. your job is really important to us as a country. your failures as an agency are a moral failure for all of us as citizens. so please stop saying this is all under control, that this is all getting better. what do you need to fix this problem? we will get you what you need. that does it for us on the. now, naturally, you, prison, right now.