Veterans whose claims had already spent years in the VA system often wait several more years for the court to rule on whether they will receive disability payments and free health care. Some have abandoned their appeals. Others, including soldiers from as far back as World War II, have died before a decision was issued.
One veteran’s case lasted 14 years, seven at the appellate court, which considered three appeals in a repeating cycle lawyers dub “the hamster wheel.”
At least part of the blame, say advocates for the nation’s 23 million veterans, rests with the Obama administration, which has made veterans a priority yet has not submitted nominations to fill the court’s bench, where three of the nine seats are vacant.
“I’m hugely disappointed,’’ said Glenn R. Bergmann, president of the bar association that represents veterans before the court. He is one of a number of advocates who have written the White House about the problem, with no response. “It’s not like we’re trying to put someone on the Supreme Court,” he said.
Kate Bedingfield, a White House spokeswoman, said that the administration is working to submit nominations for Senate confirmation as soon as possible and that President Obama “appreciates the critical work” that the court “does on behalf of America’s veterans.”