Study shows veterans must navigate hundreds of forms, more than a dozen agencies for services

A new study released ahead of the Fourth of July holiday sheds more light on the tangle of paperwork facing America's veterans -- showing they're up against as many as 613 forms across 18 agencies as they seek services.

The study by the American Action Forum also found the paperwork -- in part the result of roughly 31 million Veterans Affairs claims alone each year -- takes federal employees roughly 43.3 million hours to process.

“Navigating 18 agencies and more than 600 forms has produced absurd results and unnecessary delays,” the self-described “center-right” leaning nonprofit said.

To be sure, the massive backlog at the Veterans Affairs has been well-documented and has resulted in demands for change from the White House, Capitol Hill and the public.

In March, the agency had 600,000, roughly 70 percent, of its claims pending longer than 125 days.

The problem in large part has been a roughly 2,000 percent increase in Veterans Affairs claims over the past four years while the agency races to streamline efforts by moving to a paperless online system.

The agency has made some headway toward its goal of eliminating backlog claims, defined as 125 days or older, by 2015. Officials said a few weeks ago that they cut the number of claims by 15 percent in recent weeks.

President Obama issued an executive order in 2011 urging federal agencies to reduce burdensome regulations. But Congress last month called for the president to be more aggressive, with Democrats and Republicans from both chambers sending him a letter asking that he “take direct action.”

Sam Batkins, American Action’s director of regulatory policy, outlined a hypothetical situation in which a veteran seeking health and education benefits could encounter as many as 49 different forms and more than four hours of paperwork, costing them about $125.

“VA, the Government Accounting Office and other agencies have already diagnosed the problem of overlap and duplication, but Veterans Affairs continues to struggle," American Action wrote. “If Congress cannot fashion a legislative remedy, veterans will have to rely on the same system that has failed them repeatedly in the past.”