Paperwork delays leave family broke as soldier fights for his benefits
By CE SKIDMORE
Published: Monday, February 18, 2008
Matthew Welch's left calf looks like a turkey leg after the Thanksgiving meal. His right thigh is peppered with shrapnel scars and parts of him will probably cause an alarm to sound at the airport.
To be fair, he has looked worse.
Welch, 26, served in the Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, Glens Falls. It is the same unit that lost Pfc. Nathan Brown, of South Glens Falls, who was killed in action on April 11, 2004, in Samarra, Iraq.
Seven months later in the same city, a Humvee that Welch was driving was hit by a roadside bomb. Dates and milestones that passed during his years in the service are hazy, Welch said. But he will never forget Nov. 24, 2004.
Welch's discharge didn't become official until Nov. 10, 2007. The process was in limbo for two years because of lost paperwork, according to Welch. He was supposed to receive $1,100 monthly retirement benefits starting Dec. 1, 2007, he said, but to date has not seen a check.
"I keep getting juggled around," he said. "There's no communication. ... One department tells me I need to call a different department, and they tell me I need to call someone else."
go here for the rest
This is one of the reasons our veterans end up homeless. Welch is trapped in a backlog of claims over 800,000 deep now. Amazing how that went from 600,000 to 816,211 in a few months but it did.
VA claim backlog at 816,211 but IT cut back? WTF (+)
Wed Feb 13, 2008 at 22:24:14 PM EST
VA claim backlog at 816,211 but IT cut back? WTF Vets' groups urge IT budget boost for benefits processing By Bob Brewin firstname.lastname@example.org February 13, 2008 Veterans' services organizations have urged Congress to provide a sharp increase in the information technology budget of the agency that handles their compensation and pension claims.
The fiscal 2009 IT budget request for the Veterans Benefits Administration is about 18 percent less than the fiscal 2008 proposal. The overall IT budget for the Veterans Affairs Department, VBA's parent agency, jumped 18 percent in President Bush's latest request.
VBA's pending compensation and claims backlog stood at 816,211 as of January 2008, up 188,781 since 2004, said Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of the Disabled Veterans of America, during a Wednesday hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
Baker said VBA must have the funds necessary to upgrade its IT infrastructure to handle the backlog and a growing caseload. Anything short of an increase is "a recipe for failure," he added.
Carl Blake, national legislative director for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, said VBA needed $121 million in its fiscal 2009 budget for its information technology. According to VA budget documents, VBA requested an IT budget of $109.6 million for its compensation and benefits programs, down $23.8 million from $133.4 million in 2008. VA requested an overall 2009 IT budget of $2.53 billion in 2009, up from $2.15 billion in fiscal 2008, with the largest portion earmarked for the Veterans Health Administration. go here for the rest
And now the above report will only go to show this is all going to get worse. Veterans like Matthew Welch are trapped in the system, suffering along with their families for someone to find their file and do the right thing. To the VA they are just missing in a pile but if they were missing when the government wanted them to go, or the Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion had orders in hand to send them, they would be tracked down and tossed into jail for being AWOL. So who is charging the DOD and the VA with they are AWOL on these claims?
Don't get me wrong here. The DOD and the VA people who are trying to process claims are still busier than they should be. There are still not enough of them to process all the claims. The people who rate these claims are a mix between those who want to do a wonderful job and others who just do what they have to do in order to move onto the next claim. They have their orders to follow, so it depends on who is giving those orders and setting policy. It also depends on where they are and who is fighting for them.
The biggest problems seem to come when the veterans try to work their way through they system on their own. With no advocate knowing the system, they end up trapped. There are now lawyers around the country taking on these cases for free. They see it as their patriotic duty to help these veterans without charging them money. They just don't want to see these veterans suffering for their service and the inconvenience to the government of having to treat them and pay out their claims. There are DAV and VFW and American Legion Service Officers around the country helping with claims along with a lot of other smaller organizations. The problem is, for veterans in rural areas, help is just too far away and coping with too long of a line to get there.
With all the hearings by the House and the Senate, why is there so little being done to correct these problems while the veterans are suffering? Good motives and plans do not put food on their table or a roof over their heads. Building new hospitals does not take care of the veterans facing wanting to end their lives today or having to deal with having their wound go untreated. Can't they understand that these veterans need help yesterday? They still need to work on the future but they have to take care of today first!