SAN MATEO, CA – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) today released the following statement recognizing Veterans Day which will be celebrated on Sunday, November 11:

“As we celebrate the men and women who bravely served our country in the military, we must recognize our responsibility to help veterans receive the health care and other benefits they need once they return to civilian life.

“Of the two million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost half face serious mental issues. Many veterans avoid seeking help—they fear the stigma attached to mental health treatment. And when they do seek compensation from the VA for service-connected injuries, they are subjected to an unjustified long wait for a claims decision by the VA.

“Some veterans mired in the slow claims process at the Oakland VA have come to me for help. Since March of this year my office has helped Bay Area veterans receive over $1 million in VA benefits. But the number of veterans that we’ve helped is dwarfed by the number of California veterans who are still waiting—more than 66,000 have a backlogged claim at one of the three VA regional offices in the state.

“The head of the VA said his goal is to eliminate 60% of the claims backlog by 2015. That simply isn’t good enough. We can’t leave 40% of the veterans behind. We can’t leave any veteran behind. Eliminating the backlog is not an item for unfinished government business, it is more akin to a national promise to all our veterans, regardless of whether or not they have a claim on hold. Making those who served us as whole as possible is a solemn responsibility that deserves greater recognition, not only today, but every day.”