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Veterans and disability: bureaucratic barriers to benefit access

One of the stories we've been following throughout the year is the effort to bring down the backlog of claims by veterans for disability benefits.

As we discussed most recently in our October 25 post, those efforts - despite a so-called "surge" during the summer - have not fully resolved the huge backlog of claims with which the year began.

At the federal level, improved cooperation between the Social Security Administration and the Veterans Affairs Department is supposed to facilitate better resolution of claims. After all, a disabled veteran shouldn't fall in between bureaucratic stools, just because he or she is eligible for both Social Security disability payments and veterans' benefits.

In this post, we will take note of how bureaucratic problems at the state level in Michigan also affect veterans' ability to access their various benefits.

Last week, a report by the Michigan Auditor General found that the state agency responsible for veterans affairs had failed to follow up appropriately on efforts to help veterans gain access to government benefits and other forms of assistance.

The audit did not only include the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. It also included organizations that receive funding from the state to assist vets.

The auditor's report also found that county-level counselors who are supposed to help veterans access benefits and assistance are often not trained properly.

As a result, the audit concluded, not all veterans may have received the full amount of benefits they were eligible for.

Michigan has a large population of veterans, the audit found. But its per-capita rate of utilization for federal veterans' benefits is very low compared to other states.

Source: M Live, "Audit: Michigan veterans department lacked accountability, failed to ensure vets receive maximum beneifts," Melissa Anders, Dec. 20, 2013

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