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Schumer calls for more VA staffing

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is pressing the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase staffing in its Northeast regional office in Buffalo in hopes of eliminating long delays in processing applications for veterans seeking education benefits.

GI Bill claims have taken an average of 46 days to process this year at the Buffalo office, which handles claims for all of New York State, Schumer said Wednesday. The nationwide average is 30 days.

"We don't expect delays from our soldiers when they are shipped overseas and placed in a combat zone. We shouldn't tolerate delays of this magnitude from the [VA] when our soldiers seek to use the benefits they are entitled to," said Schumer.

"The national delays are already bad enough, but the massive delays coming out of the eastern regional office are simply beyond the pale," he added.

Schumer stressed that the delays are not the fault of the employees at the Buffalo regional VA office. He blamed VA administrators who have not given the Buffalo facility the staffing it needs. As a result, he said, the time to process education benefit applications in Buffalo has doubled since 2008.

He called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to review and overhaul the administration of GI Bill benefits and to add staff in Buffalo.

Some 1,682 veterans in Western New York are receiving GI Bill benefits, Schumer said.