Angry Veterans Demand End to Backlog of Disability Claims
by Maria La Ganga
Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Horatius A. Carney spent seven weeks in a military hospital after injuring his knee while in the segregated Army Air Forces. He first filed a disability claim in 1947. He is still waiting for a response.
Lisa Scott, an Army communications specialist who served in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm and Desert Shield, waited seven years for the Veterans Benefits Administration to approve her disability claim for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Ari Sonnenberg served three tours in Iraq and came home with a traumatic brain injury, PTSD and internal injuries. “Haunting memories of the horrors of war” drove him to attempt suicide, he said, and he called the office of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) for help navigating the veterans benefits system.
On Monday, Sonnenberg left the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs hospital so that he could testify during a heart-wrenching forum attended by more than 200 veterans seeking to expedite stalled and bungled disability claims. For more than three hours they vented about a system that they said actually makes their lives worse.
The main target of the frustrated, often tearful, men and women was the Oakland office of the Department of Veterans Affairs — which serves an area from Kern County north to the Oregon border; it has the second-largest case backlog of any regional office in the country, behind Seattle.
“I’d like to use this opportunity to express to the VA benefits section how the unnecessary delay and loss of documents and mishandling of information caused added stress and anxiety to my already difficult life,” Sonnenberg, pale and shaking, told the packed hearing room. If not for Speier, “I would still be floating around the system.”
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Filed under: Resources | Tagged: Afghanistan, Air Force, Ari Sonnenberg, Army, Bay Area, California, Combat, Congress, Deployment, Depression, Douglas Briggs, Horatius A. Carney, Iraq, Marine Corps, Mental Health, Military, Military Suicide, Navy, Oakland VA, PTSD, Rep. Jackie Speier, Suicide, suicide attempt, Suicide prevention, TBI, VA claims backlog, Veterans, Veterans Affairs, War, Willie Clark |