Frustrated U.S. vets ask for services 

Military veterans reportedly have been waiting an average of 320 days for claims to be processed through the
Oakland office.

Bay Area Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier and Barbara Lee on Monday held a three-hour hearing to listen to more than 300 people affected by delays that have created 34,000 backlogged disability claims at Oakland’s Veterans Affairs office.

Speier said veterans deserve to have their claims processed quickly.

“Our country is swift to go to war, but not swift in responding when our war heroes come home,” she said.

The hearing’s goal was to allow veterans to voice their grievances and give them a chance to meet with caseworkers to learn how to move their claims through faster — some have paperwork that’s been in the pipeline for more than a decade

Willie Clark, western regional director for the VA, said the nation’s two current wars are contributing to the backlog — there’s been a push to put thousands of claims from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans above others.

Also, there’s a court-ordered mandate that previously denied claims from the 1960s and 1970s for discharges related to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam now be given priority.

“We were producing more work, but more work was coming in,” Clark said.

For Donald Perry and his wife, Monday’s meeting was a waste of time, they said. The 68-year-old Navy veteran has been waiting since January 2011 for his disability claim. He was injured in an accident in the 1960s that left him with a traumatic brain injury, and as a result he’s suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Perry has had to pay for his own medications. After a brief meeting with a specialist Monday, Perry was told he could not be offered help.

“It’s so frustrating,” he said. “It’s no wonder so many veterans give up.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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