The Department of Veterans Affairs failed to send benefit packages to nearly 37,000 National Guard and Reserve members who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan because it mistakenly thought they were ineligible.
Several senators raised the discovery Wednesday, detailed in a report by the VA's Office of Inspector General, as the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing on whether Guard and Reserve members are being adequately informed of the benefits that are available to them.
“While the VA has targeted outreach programs in place to help service members, we still miss far too many veterans who need help and aren't aware of the services and benefits they have earned,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a senior member of the committee.
Murray and others have long criticized the VA and the Defense Department as not doing enough to ensure that the more than 488,000 members of the National Guard and Reserves who've been mobilized and deployed are notified of and receive the benefits they're entitled to.
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VA and Pentagon officials defended their efforts and said that improvements have been made.
Murray said a recent Pentagon study found that National Guard members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were 25 percent more likely to suffer from combat-related psychological problems than active-duty soldiers who've been deployed.
In addition, Guard and Reserve members are twice as likely to have their VA claims denied as active-duty service members are, she said.