A senator from North Carolina is calling on the VA to take action in clearing up a logjam at the Veterans Benefits Administration office in Winston-Salem that has led to the second-longest wait time in the southeast region.
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., says the state’s regional office has more than 7,000 veterans waiting at least a year — and 700 waiting more than two years — for a disability claims ruling.
“This is an unacceptable way to care for the men and women who have put their lives on the line for our country,” Hagan wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “ … I’m sure you’ll agree that these delays, which fall far short of the Agency’s state goal of processing all claims within 125 days, are deplorable.”
In her letter, Hagan asks Shinseki to send senior officials from VA headquarters to the Winston-Salem office to address the backlog at a regional center that provides benefits and services to more than 773,000 veterans, including those from Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune.
Local veterans are familiar with the backlog — and the accompanying frustrations.
“A lot of us here hate that there is such a major backlog for veterans claims,” said John Bryant, the commander of the Jacksonville chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. “A lot of vets that come in, they have a need of their claim being processed. It feels like they are being put on the back burner. Veterans are very, very upset.”
Bryant feels their pain, he said, because he too has a claim pending with the VA.
“It’s a very simple claim for dependency,” Bryant said. “I’m still waiting. It will be two years here soon in December. I know there are veterans waiting longer than me and it may be as simple as a keystroke to start someone’s compensation whether it be medical or monetary benefits.”
Doug Bradley, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, said he filed his VA claim on April 30 of last year.
“It’s a very frustrating process so far because whenever I was going through my discharge they said it would take six to eight months,” he said.
Despite his frustration, Bradley said he was trying to remain patient.
“I know there are people worse off than I am that aren’t receiving their compensation,” he said. “I’m trying to keep that in mind. I’m not trying to jump ahead of anyone. I just want answers.”