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Effort To Speed Up Claims For Veterans

It may be the longest waiting list in the country ... the longest line .... half-a-million military veterans ... waiting for their claims to be processed by the Veterans Administration.
Local 12 News Reporter Jeff Hirsh shows us what's being done to get those claims on the fast track.

"My name is Tom Eppinghoff. I am a proud Vietnam veteran."

Tom Eppinghoff spent 15 months in the jungles of vietnam, exposed to the toxic chemical agent orange.  He has heart disease, and applied for a disability pension from the Veterans Administration after retiring from his civilian job.

Tom Eppinghoff, Vietnam Veteran:
"That was in September 2011. It's not 2013.  22 months, going on 23 months. When I call them the only thing I get is we're working on it. We're working on it."

Eppinghoff has lots of paperwork saying his claim is working its way through the system, but still no final approval.
One big reason ... each year, one million VA claims are okayed ... but 1.3 million new ones are filed ... from soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, or dating back, like Tom, to Vietnam.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who is on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, says the backlog has been cut by 100,000, but the number is still far too high.
Brown is involved with legislation to speed up the process.

Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH:
"It's our job to serve those who serve us and far too many veterans have had to wait far too long."

Tom Eppinghoff is 74 years old. He says he's not really joking about this.  He hopes the benefits come while he's still alive.

"And I wonder when it gets faxed back to them if somebody don't take it off the fax machine and say this goes into Mr. Eppinghoff's file instead of bringing it to the person who's waiting for the information. There's something totally wrong."

And thousands of others are in the same situation. The current Secretary of Veterans Affairs has vowed to eliminate the backlog of claims by 2015.




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