By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — US senator Bob Casey (D- Pa.) today announced that he plans to demand a hearing to discuss the Veterans Administration’s backlog of disability claims.

Even with changes and reforms, Casey says, the backlog for disability claims is 266 days for Philadelphia veterans.  “That backlog is unacceptable,” he says.

So, Casey and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) are writing a letter to the head of the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs to get a hearing to discuss ways to streamline the process.

Casey points to a March report that says problems are rife within the VA and at regional offices.

“This isn’t simply a Veterans Administration problem,” says Casey, who notes that changes must focus on claims submissions, regional offices, and making processing disability claims a federal priority.

“It’s been very frustrating because I haven’t heard anything,” says Mark Whetson, a US Army veteran who has been waiting more than five months to have his PTSD claim processed.  And, he says, he may lose a chance at affordable housing if the doesn’t get his claim processed by January.  “There’s been no response on the process of my claims or anything,” Whetson said today.

Sen. Casey says he hopes the hearing will happen by the end of the year and that the process will expedite the passage of the “21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act,” which lays out VA reforms.