The chairmen of the House and Senate committees on Veterans' Affairs, Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, pledged Monday to fight on behalf of servicemen and servicewomen to see they receive the benefits they're promised.
"Many VA Regional Offices in larger cities suffer from the same problem that exists in Baltimore: high turnover among employees and management," Miller said in a statement. "This has a direct negative impact on office productivity and morale, leading to slower processing times.
"We are committed to improving benefits processing and speeding the delivery of benefits to our veterans across the country by investigating the turnover problems at urban VA facilities, exploring better training programs for VA employees and looking into incentives for employees who process claims in a timely and accurate manner."
Dorothy Olanoff of Reisterstown said her husband, Mark, died in October, about two years after he filed his disability claim with the VA.
Mark Olanoff, 63, died of leukemia related to Agent Orange exposure while he served in South Korea, his wife said. He retired from the Air Force after 28 years and went on to serve as a Washington lobbyist working on behalf of veterans.
Dorothy Olanoff, who worked for the VA's Baltimore office from 1976 to 1983, is now seeking survivor benefits from her husband's claim.
"I think it's a crime," she said. "Boy, I would like to be the boss of that VA and give them production standards and have them audited. Most of them wouldn't be there."
Cummings said servicemen and servicewomen deserve better.
"It is our nation's sacred duty to take care of our veterans and when the VA fails, we all fail," the Baltimore congressman said in a statement. "It is critical that the Baltimore VA now examine its procedures and implement processes that will ensure the needs of our veterans are met with the sense of urgency our veterans have earned."