Washington Staffing shortages and an outdated system for assessing claims are among the reasons for wide differences in disability payments for veterans, the government said Thursday.
Claims examiners use 60-year-old guidelines to assess ailments that now include nonphysical conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a report from the Veterans Affairs Department.
"When you got through some of the bureaucratic gobbledygook, the report did confirm some of our worst fears," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
The average compensation payment last year was $8,378 per veteran. Illinois' was the lowest, at $6,961; New Mexico had the highest, $12,004.
Daniel L. Cooper, the department's undersecretary for benefits, said veterans are welcome to have their claims re-examined.
"Unfortunately, as we all know, if more claims come in, then it will take us longer to do each and every one," he said.
The report said that 65 percent of claim assessors who were surveyed said they did not have enough staff to "ensure timely and quality service."
More than one-third of the variance in disability compensation results from different rates of acceptance for certain ailments, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, according to an investigation by the department's inspector general.