They put their lives on the line. Now they stand in line.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is a Sargasso Sea, awash in about 500,000 backlogged disability compensation claims nationally.

Earlier this year, the total number of pending cases was closer to 800,000, the majority of which -- nearly 70 percent -- had been floating around like so much flotsam and jetsam for more than 125 days.

The meeting included local VA officials and representatives of veterans assistance organizations. It was a strategic first step toward eliminating the backlog by 2015.

Veterans need a better understanding of the benefits available to them, and the claim forms they fill out must be simplified. The VA also must be held accountable.

Brown co-sponsored legislation that would require periodic updates on its progress.House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Rob Portman and other members of the Ohio Republican congressional delegation sent a letter July 8 demanding the VA produce monthly reports. The letter stated that the average time to process a claim by the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Regional Office is nearly 100 days longer than the national average.

Veterans deserve better.