NM veterans say claims taking too long to process

Created: 05/16/2014 10:16 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Across the nation, Veteran Affairs Hospitals are under fire for long wait times for care. In New Mexico, veteran complain about that, and also that it takes too long to get benefits they say they and their families deserve.

“Our government made us a promise, I expect them to keep it. I kept my promise,” Willis Griffin said.

For Griffin, that promise was more than a decade of serving his country, including fighting in the Gulf War. While there, he suffered a serious injury, and gets payments every month as a result.

“I went over and said if I die I die, I thought I was gonna die, I thought Hussein was gonna use nuclear weapons or nerve gas.  He did use nerve gas. I'm lucky to be here today,” Griffin said.

At the start of his career he met his wife of 30 years. He says she’s supposed to get $300 a month because of what happened to her husband in the service, but he says two years ago he learned she wasn’t getting the money. He says he went to Veterans Affairs and filed a claim, but like millions of other veterans, was told it would take some time. He says that was two years ago.

“I'm a soldier and I accept that they're behind a little and it's a lot of workload... but come on...I worked for these benefits, if it was you... what would you say if they didn't follow your retirement plan?” Griffin said.

The VA could not speak about Griffin’s claim directly, but they released this statement:

"This administration has shown an unwavering commitment to serve our Veterans.  Under the leadership of Secretary Shinseki and his team, The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has completed a record-breaking 4.1 million disability claims since 2009, but during that time the VA has also received 4.6 million claims, with the priority of addressing the oldest claims first.   

VA has cut the disability claims backlog by 50% from its peak of 611,000 claims, with Veterans waiting 120 days fewer, on average, for compensation claim decisions.  More work remains as we push towards our goal to eliminate the backlog in 2015.  We have processed more than 1 million claims per year for the past four fiscal years and continue to implement processes to help streamline benefit delivery for our nation’s Veterans.  This includes addressing supplemental claims.  Over the past two months, the Albuquerque VA Regional Office has tripled the amount of personnel assigned to address such supplemental claims to include dependency issues as we implement our Transformation Plan to eliminate the claims backlog and achieve the goal of processing all claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy in 2015." 

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