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Published: Saturday, 8/10/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Brown pushes for faster veterans’ claims

During visit, senator promotes legislation to process VA backlog

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown calls the delays at the Department of Veterans Affairs ‘inexcusable.’ At right is Patrick Grames of Oregon, an Air Force veteran. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown calls the delays at the Department of Veterans Affairs ‘inexcusable.’ At right is Patrick Grames of Oregon, an Air Force veteran.
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Patrick Grames spent more then 15 years in the U.S. Air Force and he doesn't want to wait that long for the Department of Veterans Affairs to process his claims for health services and benefits.

“I have seven claims in and they recently, after two years ... I finally got a 10 percent disability [payment] for tinnitus,” Mr. Grames of Oregon said. “All my other claims have been deferred. They didn’t ask for any extra reason, they haven't given me any other reason, they just said they are deferred, especially the reason I was separated for.”

He holds no ill will, but Mr. Grames wants claims made by himself or other veterans processed faster. Mr. Grames said advancements in technology make it unacceptable to have those kinds of delays for veterans.

“I absolutely support the military and people should join the military,” he said. “I am waiting on claims for a spinal condition, asthma, and I hurt my ankle a lot.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said Mr. Grames’ situation and that of the other 500,000 veterans across the nation who are waiting more than 125 days for claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs to be processed is unacceptable.

Lucas County Veterans Service officer Rick Glover, left, and Lee Armstrong, executive director of the Lucas County Veterans Service Commission, listen as Patrick Grames of Oregon explains the barriers he has faced in his VA claim to Sherrod Brown, right. Lucas County Veterans Service officer Rick Glover, left, and Lee Armstrong, executive director of the Lucas County Veterans Service Commission, listen as Patrick Grames of Oregon explains the barriers he has faced in his VA claim to Sherrod Brown, right.
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“The backlog log for people, for veterans filing for their claims, to start with, is inexcusable,” Mr. Brown said during a news conference Friday at the Lucas County Veterans Service Commission. “There are hundreds of thousands of claims that have not been processed. The waiting list is far too long. Far too many veterans have had to wait weeks and weeks, and sometimes months and even years before they get their claims processed.”

Mr. Brown, a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to eliminate the backlog filed by disabled veterans and their caregivers for services and benefits.

The senator said the Veterans Services Outreach Act would significantly reduce the wait time by providing veterans the information and assistance they need to improve their claims. Also, he asserted the Claims Processing Improvement Act would give the VA the tools it needs to deal with the backlog.

Mr. Brown said Veterans Affairs Secretary designate Ret. Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki is dedicated to reducing the backlog.

“The remedy is that General Shinseki has set goals and has said ‘hold me accountable,’ and a lot of it is getting the Department of Defense and the VA cooperating.

“The Department of Defense never talked to the VA in the past, believe it or not," Mr. Brown said. “[General] Shinseki is working to make sure these two huge organizations, the Department of Defense and the VA, begin to share information. ... It is millions of names [and] different computers."

Rick Glover, a Lucas County Veterans Services Officer, acknowledged that the wait for veterans can be long.

“I just want my veterans to know that they are not in this alone,” Mr. Glover said. “Our sole purpose is to help them.”

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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