Bus tour to highlight backlog in vet benefits claims


Video by ktnv.com

Bus tour to highlight backlog in vet benefits claims

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Oct 4, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Veterans are rallying to clear the massive backlog in disability benefits claims.

The "Defend Freedom" national bus tour launched on Friday in Las Vegas. The event, organized by the non-partisan group Concerned Veterans for America, hopes to bring attention to the backlog and other veterans' issues.

Action News has heard from numerous vets across the valley struggling to get their benefits. The latest numbers from the Department of Veterans Affairs show 58 percent of claims are more than 125 days old.

"I'm losing my patience," said Ron Torres, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force.

Torres said he feels stuck.

"I guess it's just a waiting game now," Torres said.

Torres spent nearly three decades in the service as a military police officer, which did a number on his body.

"I need medical treatment," Torres said. "I definitely need medical treatment."

But roughly four months have passed since we first met Ron and he's still waiting for his benefits claim to be processed.

"Just please buckle up and get the job done," Torres said.

Friday's bus tour launched with the help of dozens of motorcycle riders.

"People sacrifice a lot," said Steve Russell, who retired after 21 years of service in the U.S. Army and works as a military advisor for Concerns Veterans of America. "People shed blood, sweat and lose friends and have long separations. They give a lot to the country under the illusion that they would be taken care of."

Organizers blame much of the backlog on bureaucracy.

"We want things done right," said Darin Selnick, a member of the organizing committee. "We want the benefits that have been earned and we're not going to take no for an answer."

The VA said it's taking steps in hopes of eliminating the backlog by 2015. The agency mandated overtime for claims processors and gave priority to vets waiting more than a year for compensation.

Nevada's Congressional delegation has also called for action on the backlog, noting some veterans are waiting hundreds of days for a response.

"I have confidence in the systems but that confidence is definitely dwindling," said Torres.

The government shutdown could complicate the backlog problem. The VA said while there's money to process most claims through late October, funding for overtime for the claims processors has since run out.