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Veterans vent new round of frustration over claims backlog

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Veterans vent new round of frustration over claims backlog

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Apr 14, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Veterans across the Valley are venting a new round of frustrations over a national backlog in disability claims.

The vets and service organizations met with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, in Las Vegas on Monday. Heller said some help is on the way.

"I love our country. I love what they do for us. But sometimes, just to do it a little better," said Mitchell Roach, vice commander of the Nevada chapter of the American Legion.

Roach was one of about two dozen people who took part in a round table discussion that was closed to the media. He said the claims backlog was a big part of the talks and is one of the biggest issue facing veterans today.

"Things shouldn't be put off on the back of the veterans and it seems like it's over and over and over," Roach said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is tackling a nationwide backlog that started several years ago. Nationally, more than 58-percent of claims are more than 125 days old, according to numbers from April 14. Some vets wait months, if not years, for answers. Many have turned to Action News.

"If you need you foot fixed or your arm fixed or your eyes fixed, it's really not good to wait 120 days and that's the minimum," Roach said. "That's what they say is supposed to happen and it's not happening."

After the meeting, Heller told Action News that veterans are fed up with bureaucracy.

"They find it very, very frustrating to get their claims moving," Heller said. "Probably the top issue was that it takes so long to get a claim processed in this state."

The Senator said nine trained employees, and possibly up to 20, are heading to the VA Hospital to help. The Reno Regional Office handles most claims for Nevada and has come under scrutiny for its performance.

"They've told me for five years, 'We're great. We're fine. We've got this new program coming, some computer program that's going to make it easier.' We've all heard that before, so here we sit, five, six years later and we see very few improvements," Heller said.

The VA said it's making progress. The agency is transitioning to electronic records. Just this month, the VA announced veterans are waiting, on average, 119 fewer days for a response compared to last year. 

The agency has set a goal to clear the backlog by next year, which Heller said will be tough.The Senator said he's working with other members of Congress to fix the problem.

Michael Lopardi

Michael Lopardi

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Michael Lopardi is the featured reporter of the You Ask. We Investigate. franchise at Action News.