"We do still have work to do, we've made improvements and we are making clear progress," said Prieb.

The VA is also doing away with an antiquated paper filing system and moving to an electronic filing method known as the Veterans Benefits Management System.

"This will improve our timeliness in our processing," said Prieb.

The VA's goal is that by the end of 2015, all claims will be processed within four months. Progress on the backlog is already being made.


Baker says when she was being discharged a fellow soldier gave her invaluable advice on filing a claim.

"When he found out I was coming to Spokane, Washington, he said, 'I have a veteran service officer I want you to contact the minute you get to Spokane,'" said Baker.

A Veteran Service Officer, or VSO, like Gary Roach, from the American Legion.

"The idea behind having us do the claim is that we are the experts on it," Roach said.

Services offered by VSOs are free to veterans and can be found at the VA, American Legion, VFW and DAV offices.

"Before I actually started doing this I had a service connected disability, so I understand how that process works and how frustrating it can be," said Roach.

Their help can shave months off the waiting period for a claim but, more importantly, these are veterans helping veterans. For Baker this was important, especially when trying to file a claim for her PTSD.

"It's really hard to put that down on paper but it's worth it. It's necessary," said Baker.

Because war can't be understood by those watching from afar.

"It's a life altering experience that only other veterans really get," said Baker.

And coming home doesn't mean life returns to normal.

"I'm grateful to the VA. I know some people have had some negative experiences but you have to go in knowing what you want," said Baker.

And that's something benefits can't replace, something not measured in torn muscles or broken bodies.

"You have to give up a certain part of your humanity to make it through," said Baker.

That loss defines sacrifice and while that it can't be replaced, maybe for some veterans, benefits help start the healing process and make coming home that much easier.

"You're never back. I think that was the hardest part. You're not the person you were. You will never be the person you were," said Baker


At the Seattle Regional Office, claims pending longer then two years numbered 2,616 in fiscal year 2012. By the end of fiscal year 2013, that number was down to three.

In the same time period the average days pending for a claim went from 354.4 down to 165.0, according to numbers posted on November 2, 2013.