Why would five out of six Nevada delegation members sign onto a release?

It's rare that the entire Nevada delegation, small though it may be, agrees on anything. It's highly unusual to see all six on one news release. But it's even more rare to see...five of six.

But that's what happened today as a release with this headline came out today via Sen. Dean Heller's office:

"Reid, Heller, Heck, Titus, Horsford seek to reduce Nevada's VA claim backlog."

Where is Rep. Mark Amodei? It was especially puzzling because the five-member letter to Veterans Affairs officials began:

"We write to you today regarding the high number of backlogged claims in the Reno VA Regional Office (VARO)."

That's even stranger because Amodei, last I checked, represents Reno. Why in the world would he not want to be part of the letter (pasted below) trying to help veterans -- all politicians want to help veterans! -- on the issue they may care most about?

I asked.

Amodei spokesman Brian Baluta told me that when Heller asked the congressman to sign onto the missive, he "politiely declined." Seems, according to Baluta, that Amodei has been developing relationships with VA officials, and the congressman thought it would be "awkward" to sign onto a formal letter.

Translation: Amodei didn't want to be part of a letter released to the media designed to put pressure on folks he is trying to move on this issue through private conversations.

But, Baluta told me, Amodei is continuing to meet with VA officials and has a sitdown scheduled soon, along with his former legislative colleague Titus.

Not a sexy backstory. But one that makes sense.




The Honorable Allison A. Hickey

Under Secretary for Benefits

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20420


Mr. Edward Russell, Director

Department of Veterans Affairs

Reno Regional Office

5460 Reno Corporate Drive

Reno, NV 89511


Dear Under Secretary Hickey and Director Russell:


We write to you today regarding the high number of backlogged claims in the Reno VA Regional Office (VARO).  We appreciate the opportunity to contact you about this important issue that is critical to Nevada’s veterans.


There are currently 10,000 pending claims and more than 8,000 backlogged claims at the Reno VARO still awaiting an answer.  According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, 4,210 Nevada veterans have waited more than a year for an answer.  On average, the wait time is 479 days, and the average wait time for veterans filling for their first time is 681 days.  This is significantly longer than the national average and is unacceptable for veterans in Las Vegas, Reno, and across the State of Nevada who are relying on the Reno VARO to adjudicate these claims in a timely manner.


We recognize there are multiple factors contributing to the number of veterans’ claims entering the system, including the addition of presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange and the drawdown of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, addressing the claims backlog must be a priority regardless of these factors.


We respectfully request that you provide us with your recommendations for what the Reno VARO needs from the Nevada Congressional delegation to assist in reducing this unacceptable backlog.  It is our combined goal to see this backlog eradicated as quickly as possible so Nevada veterans can receive the compensation and benefits they have earned in service to our nation. 


In the interest of ensuring America’s brave heroes are taken care of, we are committed to working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Reno VARO as you undertake this endeavor.  Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to hearing from you on how to be helpful in addressing the Reno VARO’s claims backlog.






U.S. Senator




U.S. Senator




U.S. Representative




U.S. Representative




U.S. Representative