The Center for Investigative Reporting is releasing today data used in our recent report detailing how the Department of Veterans Affairs’ ability to quickly provide benefits to veterans has virtually collapsed under President Barack Obama.

The data reveals a department increasingly unable to respond in a timely manner to more than 822,000 veterans’ claims of disease, injury or illness sustained while serving the U.S. military. Altogether, more than 900,000 veterans are waiting for disability, pension and education benefits. The data is viewable on CIR’s interactive map, also seen below.

Today marks the first time the public can view this information for all 58 regional VA offices where claims are processed. New data points, available on a monthly basis going back to late 2010, include:

  • The number of veterans waiting a year or more for a response to their claim
  • The average wait time for veterans filing their first claim
  • The average number of claims completed per VA employee
  • The number of new claims

Before today, the only data about the backlog was published by the VA on a weekly and monthly basis and offered little insight into productivity and wait times.

In the coming weeks, CIR will make the data available through a public API for anyone to build new views into the data or integrate with existing apps. The API will provide the most comprehensive, up-to-date data concerning the backlog and add new data as it becomes available.

Releasing an API is part of our ongoing effort to make it easy for journalists and developers to show how the backlog affects local veterans. We’ve already worked with partners at the Investigative News Network, Public Insight Network and other media outlets to help localize this story, and we’d love to see more.

As CIR reporter Aaron Glantz pointed out, the number of veterans waiting for benefits declined in areas where media outlets picked up CIR’s coverage, including Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego and Waco, Texas. That could, of course, be a coincidence, but we’re committed to helping articulate the backlog’s impact to audiences everywhere.

If you’re interested in using the data or want to get an update when the API is ready, please contact me at To learn more about potential collaboration opportunities and possible veteran sources in your area, contact Cole Goins, associate manager of distribution and online engagement, at

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Shane Shifflett is a software developer and reporter who learned how to interrogate data while working on a story at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. There, he wrote about a drug-addled prostitute's 300th arrest and the unforgiving criminal justice system failing its inmates. He also reported on the Chicago Police Department's wasteful deployment of cameras across the city. Before reporting, Shane studied computer science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, worked in construction, moved packages for UPS and wrote software for a mutual fund company.