On Average its take a Veteran 393 days for a veteran in Central Texas to process a disability claim, about five months longer then Veterans living in other states, according to department of Veteran Affairs. As Veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan wars seeking help, the department is under siege across the U.S for being too slow processing the claims. In response to this the department is going threw an overhaul, Updating their outdated paper-reliant process and streamlining with a digital system. The department claims that it would the processing time for claims from 245 days to 125 day and reduce the error rate to 2% by 2015.
The situation in Central Texas, which is the one of the largest home for U.S Veterans, Austin has had major problems with their claims, not only were they slow but one in five contained errors that force Veterans to go into appeals that can take years to resolve. Huston has the 2nd largest population of Veterans after California. The Waco office that helps Bell county, near Fort Hood, has had more disabled Veterans than Huston. They also have a 17.5% error rate, which is the 8th worst of 56 offices nationwide.
During this process, the government officials evaluate medical, service and financial records and assign a disability percentage, or rating, that provides Veterans with monthly stipend and they also gain access to low interest VA loans, and last but not least free medical care.
Donna Harrell, a Williamson County Veterans Service officer, has said “I’ve seen some veterans who have almost lost their homes while they wait for VA claims to be granted, The level of frustration is very high out there”. She is one of many county employees state wide who have helped veterans through the process.
In Waco and Huston along with others across the country, The officials are saying they feel the pressure that comes from a weak economy. Aging veteran and the rising number of young veterans who return from Iraq or Afghanistan and new rules that make it easier to file claims.
In a written statement Waco VA officials said “Our employees are anxiously engaged in processing claims as promptly, accurately and compassionately as possible, Our strategic initiatives seek to improve the quality and timeliness of benefits delivery. ” Lenders have promised $1.5 million to help deal with the backlog, But the money that pays for the counselors, is only expected to make only a small dent in the 70,000 delayed claims in Texas.
Leaders of the Texas Veterans Commission say that pending claims have just about doubled in the past two years and a vast amount of new employees are going to be needed. Tom Palladino Executive director said Texas offices are getting more local calls since the VA began, using national centers that instead direct callers online. State officials also cite aging World War II veterans and more Iraq and Afghanistan vets making claims.
When Palladino appeared before a Texas Senate panel in july at a veterans home in Temple. Commission officials say pending claims in Texas have grown from about 46,000 in July 2010 to nearly 90,000 now.Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations, says Texas needs to earmark more resources to the commission. The agency has nearly 110 counselors to help file claims.