NORFOLK, Va (WAVY) - While the government is handing out furloughs left and right, the Department of Veterans Affairs is now mandating overtime to help process the backlog of veterans claims.
The problem effects veterans nationwide, but even more so in Virginia. WAVY.com requested some numbers and look what was discovered:
Of the 846,223 total claims pending in the U.S., the regional office in Roanoke has 28,566 of them. It takes longer, on average, to complete a claim in the Commonwealth. It's 299 nationwide and 391 in Virginia. The percentage of claims pending over 125 is also higher in Virginia, 77 percent to 69 percent.
So, when a top doctor with the Veterans Health Administration came to town, WAVY.com took the opportunity to ask her about it.
Norfolk native, Dr. Mary Maniscalco-Theberg is now Deputy Medical Inspector for the Veterans Health Administration. She told WAVY.com, "It is a priority and they are addressing it and they have hired many many people to try to address those things and I know they are working very very hard."
Not hard enough for the veterans WAVY.com met at the Disabled American Veterans office in Norfolk.
Frank Sudderth lost vision in one eye during Vietnam in 1975 and just recently got fully compensated.
It took Eric Sellers two years to get the government to pay for his training injuries.
In fairness, Dr. Maniscalco-Theberg's job is not to cut through the paper work, it's to make sure veterans get the best medical care. And for that she says veterans do not have to wait. "They get plugged into the Veterans Health Administration, almost the day they leave the military they can come in."
Again, Sellers argues its not that easy. He now works for the DAV and explained veterans of recent wars have five years to get treatment, but many don't need it until much later, for instance those who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"So most of our veterans are not eligible for healthcare at the VA Medical Centers," he said.
Sellers says many give up, but he and others who have learned to successfully navigate the system encourage them to come in to the DAV where they are cutting through at least some of the red tape.
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