The Rachel Maddow Show | March 21, 2013
>>> are you familiar with the fine art of dog shaming? dogs do naughty dog things and their owners who love them write out their crime on placard of some kind and make their dog pose with it. they run the gamut of eating a forbidden food to making a mess with food to eating another animal's food, to hidining things. i hid meat in the couch. also, destroying something of value, that's a popular one. far and away the most popular reason dogs get shamed on the internet is pop related. either popping where they're not supposed to or that. the whole idea of dog shaming is adorable to the extent dogs are adorable, right? the idea is to make their mall fesans known, make it into a visual thing. they have a way of sticking in your head, a yourful tactic, dog-wise. right now, as we speak, veterans of our wars in iraq and afghanistan are using a very similar tactic for a much bigger deal reason. they're not dog shaming, they are va shaming. shaming the veterans administration for the jaw dropping number of days that th they, our veterans , personally or having to wait for their benefits claims to be processed. the wait is very very long. look at this. deployment to iraq , 341 days. va claim, 1,099 days. more than three years. this veteran has been waiting almost two years. this one, 584 days. this one, 366 days. these experiences these veterans and families are having are not outliers. the average wait time is nine months to hear back, the average. nine months to clear through the va and longer for newest veterans specifically if you fought in afghanistan and iraq . the more worrying problem about this backlog over the last few years instead of getting better this problem has gotten worst, trending in the wrong direction. this is the woman in charge of -- sorry. this is a hearing at which the va's backlog is being described. the woman in charge of managing benefits claims at the v.a. is the person who runs the veteran a veteran's benefits administration. vba. this week, they were called to testify about the insane backlog. the woman who heads the vba is called alison hickey and said her department has a plan to fix it by transitioning to an all electronic system by processing claims.
>> the veterans manage many system is our processing solution. with the integration and portline improvements we achieved an online file capability and veterans can file a claim online.
>> this goal is to fix the problem in two years. while others say they are doing the best they can and others are not satisfied. the chairman of the house committee on affairs this week called on alison hickey to resign her job. the largest organization of iraq and afghanistan veterans . iava, they have now publicly announced they want president obama to intervene and personally take charge of this problem, to appoint a presidential commission to figure out how to fix this thing. veterans with iava have spent the week this week as part of a lobbying effort they call storm the hill. their efforts this year are dedicated to one issue, ending the v.a. backlog. while a lot of americans have spent the week this week recognizing it has been 10 years since the start of the war in iraq , the people who fought that war in our name, they have had to spend this week on capitol hill , storming capitol hill , as they say, to try to get the things we as a country already promised them, the things we are failing miserably to deliver. joining us now for the interview is paul , executive director of iraq and africa veterans . and one service dog . they spent the day lobbying congress to end the v.a. backlog. i want to thank you all for being here tonight. good to see you all here. paul , thank you for pulling this together. i really appreciate it.
>> rachel, thank you for having our platoon and thanks for the bus to get us here.
>> i know you guys met with members of congress and secretary hagel, the defense secretary . i know you met with the white house chief of staff . i have to ask if you have anything concrete, anything satisfying, what has the response been like so far?
>> no, we haven't gotten anything concrete. what we're really looking for is a pretty simple solution. these veterans standing behind me represent our national membership that cares deeply about this issue. they have come from 22 states to be here, left their families, jobs, school this week volunteering on capitol hill to send a very clear message to the president and the v.a. backlog. this has gone in long enough. in cities like new york, the wait is over 600 days. in los angeles over 600 days. in reno, nevada, close to 600 days. we know this is unacceptable. we know the american people when they hear about this feel it's unacceptable and why we have a petition and rallying this week and won't stop until it gets to zero.
>> can you describe to us, put a face us to, tell us your personal experience having to wait this long. what were you waiting for and what were the consequences of you having to go through this wait?
>> absolutely. thank you again for having me. i will come out publicly and say i have ptsd. something i had to come through and share my story and admit that. it's been a long hard road to come to that. when i finally came through to that and came from a very dark spot sometimes i really thought it wasn't worth living, i went to get help at the v.a. and was met with nothing but resistance. i cannot get the v.a. to call me back so i can file my claim and be part of the backlog because i can't get anybody to respond to me. my mental health deployments take four to five weeks to get scheduled and when scheduled and broke been in the v.a., takes another six weeks to get this. i'm fortunate. i have an amazing family and amazing wife that support mess and gets me through. there's 22 veterans everyday showing the system is not working then killing themselves. that's something we need to stop. again, i'm the fortunate one and there's a backlog that has to be ended.
>> paul , let me ask you about the political response thus far. there is nobody in american politics and nobody in the press and comments on this at all who said this is okay, they think they're satisfied with the situation. everybody says something has to be done. we hear that from congress, hear that from the senate and v.a. itself. why are you now calling on president obama personally to get involved? you're calling for a presidential commission . why do you think that would help?
>> because we're tired of the rhetoric. we need results. the only thing that matters is whether or not our veterans are getting the benefits they deserve. we don't think we should have to wait until the end of 2015 to have this system cleaned up. it's clear the v.a. can't handle it. the backlog and disability and number of claims waiting continue tops go up. the d.o.d. is part of this. we need the president to step in and fix it. put the full creativity and intelligence and power of the american public and white house behind it. we're not asking to put somebody on mars. we're asking to fix a broken paperwork process. right now, 97% of these claims are still on paper. let's go above the v.a. and above the d.o.d. and to the commander in chief and get him involved and we need him to fix it and what we told the white house and we need the american people to tell him. we have a petition on our website. iava.org and message to the president of this nation we need to end this backlog.
>> thinking how we get from the widespread outrage on this now, will, let me ask you this as well, toward the kind of aim paul is talking about there, toward fixing it, when you were up on capitol hill , and you're able to meet face to face and eye-to-eye policymakers and talk to them about this, do you feel veterans being able to tell these stories personally, you being able to tell your personal story is reaching these policymakers in a way they have not been reached before? are you guys able to actually impart the necessary urgency?
>> there were some meetings this week i felt my story opened some eyes and i became a face with an actual problems. there was others that gladly took the meeting, yes, but i don't feel i connected with them. that's frustrating. i'm here representing the face you read about and hear about, the neighbor and constituent and person next door that now has a problem calling on you to do something. for the most part we did get a lot of good reception but not enough. we need 100% backing us and ending this backlog.
>> will simmons, former air force special agent. and paul , veterans of mistake and also iraq war veteran . all of you guys, i know you don't have ear pieces in. i'm sure you can hear me from there. thank you all for doing this and thank you for being with us tonight. i know it's been a very long week and very long day and finishing it tonight with us in this way means the world to us.
>> thank you. it means the world us to and thank you from all of us. we appreciate it very much.
>> we'll be right back. so