The Rachel Maddow Show | December 10, 2012
>>> good news and bad news. let's start with the good. you may remember our coverage from a few weeks ago about hurricane sandy doing a number on the veterans hospital in manhattan. a lot of hospitals took it bad in this storm. but veterans hospital took it really bad. the basement and the ground floor were totally flooded. their only mri machine was lost to the saltwater gods. the elevators and the fire protection system were no longer. the whole electrical system and all the mechanical systems were blown out. massive, massive damage in a massive facility, which means that the veterans hospital was one of four hospitals in the city that had to close down entirely. and that has meant that emergency rooms and other facilities in the remaining still open hospitals in the city have been overwhelmed with a big increase in patients. the whole thing was and is a mess. well, when we reported on that dire situation at the veterans hospital a few weeks ago, the most dire part of it was the prospect that it would never reopen. they were not even making estimates of when it might open again, if ever, which is a daunting thing for the largest city in the country which has a huge concentration of veterans . but as i said, this is the good news part of it. and there is some good news here. after refusing to initially say if that hospital was ever going to come back, the va has finally announced a reopen date for that hospital . they say they will reopen the outpatient clinic at least at the manhattan v.a. hospital in march. there is no word yet on when the in-patient facility will be open. but you know what? for a place that we didn't know was ever going to reopen ever, this is not a bad start. so that is the unexpectedly good news. now the bad news. the bad news is nationwide bad news. in fiscal year 2011 , so last year, there was an unimaginably bad wait time for veterans who were coming home and putting in claims at the v.a. for a disability. so if you are hurt or injure order have an ongoing health consequence from your deployment, from your time in the service, you come home, you get out of the military, and then it is time for us, the people of the united states of america to make good on our promise to you that you'll get health care . and that you and your family will be taken care of in terms of your service-connected disability. it is quite literally the least that we can do. and we promise to do it. so last may the wait time for those veterans once they filed, the wait time to hear anything back from the v.a. was just horrendous. people on average last year were waiting almost six months to hear anything back. last year six-month wait times. this year it's not six months anymore. this year it's now nearly nine months. the average amount of time veterans have to wait for their benefits has over the last year and a half been going up steadily, every single month. this summer the v.a. secretary, general eric shinseki said the goal was to get the wait time down to four months. and instead of going down even toward four months, it's going up and up and up and up, to the current level, which is the longest wait time the v.a. has recorded since they started recording these numbers, which is 20 years ago. how can this be? and it's not just disability claims that are taking longer to deal with. it's also enindication benefits and burial claims and appeals. so for example, if you're a veteran, and you do get an initial response from the v.a., but you want to appeal the decision that they made about your benefits, your appeal right now is likely to get processed on average in about two and a half years. and that's after waiting your average of nine months for your initial claim that you ended up appealing. so think about this. you're just back from the war. you're injured. you leave the military. average wait times now mean it could take roughly four years to start to get the benefits that you need and deserve and earned and were promised? and in the meantime, good luck. make it on your own for four years. we have been reporting for a long time now on how bad this problem. the fact that it is getting worse and not better as time goes on now requires an explanation. not to mention a solution. this is now officially nuts. what's next?