Just two weeks ago, the nation stopped to remember the great sacrifices of our service men and women.

I hope we can remember and appreciate those who serve and have served our country in uniform every day, not just on Memorial Day or Veterans' Day.

Every day we have troops in harm's way.

The battle fronts may be different. The weapons may have changed. But the fight is the same.

Americans owe an untold amount to the men and women returning from battle today and those who have been home for years and decades.

And we must, as Lincoln said in his second inaugural, "care for him who shall have borne the battle."

On this count, I fear we are falling short. It's troubling that sometimes our veterans are not getting the care they deserve.

I am concerned that the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) has a huge backlog of veterans' disabilities claims.

The VA expects claims to reach 1.2 million in 2013, an increase of almost 60 percent since 2005. The agency estimates that about 585,000 veterans are now stuck in the VA's disability claims backlog, including more than 22,000 backlogged claims in Pennsylvania's two regional offices.

Consider these facts. The average wait time for disability claims nationwide is almost a year. On average, vets wait 298 days in Pittsburgh to have a claim processed and 257 days in Philadelphia.


This backlog is out of hand despite a major funding increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs over the past few years and personnel increases. The bottom line is vets aren't getting the care they need in a timely fashion. And the backlog must surely add unneeded frustration and red tape to these heroes' lives.

I have asked VA Secretary Eric Shinseki for more information about how the department will reduce the backlog. And I recently wrote to President Obama and asked him to personally weigh in. I hope he will use his bully pulpit as commander-in-chief and force, pressure, or cajole the VA to reduce the disability claims backlog.

Solving this problem is critical for veterans of all generations.

-- Republican Sen. Pat Toomey represents Pennsyl vania.