Durham veteran combating VA backlog - WRBL

Durham veteran combating VA backlog

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Angela King is a leadership fellow with the nonprofit, nonpartisan group "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America." Angela King is a leadership fellow with the nonprofit, nonpartisan group "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America."

A Durham veteran is on a new mission - to combat the backlog in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is frustrating veterans around the country.

Angela King is a leadership fellow with the nonprofit, nonpartisan group "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America."

She spent six years in the Navy. King was deployed three times as part of Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom as a medic.

She recently moved to Durham to attend graduate school at Duke University.

King met with representatives from the offices of Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan on Wednesday in the Triangle.

King is trying to get support for legislation that would try to end the backlog to get VA benefits.

On average, someone who files a disability claim waits 238 days, according to statistics from the VA.

"I personally did not go through that, but when I separated from the military, I soon realized that just because I took off my uniform, my duty to my fellow comrades was not over and that I should take advantage and be passionate about these issues for them to make lasting changes for our generation of veterans, for other generations of veterans, and for other generations of veterans that will soon probably come," King said.

The backlog has grown since 2009, according to the department's statistics. The department completed 1 million claims per year in fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012, which is a record. But the number of claims received continues to exceed the number processed.

New numbers show 64 percent of the VA claims come from veterans filing supplemental claims for additional benefits, while 36 percent are first time claims.

According to VA, the department's goal is to eliminate the backlog of compensation claims pending for more than 125 days by the end of 2015.

King said both Burr and Hagan have been supportive so far when it comes to issues involving veterans.

"They're looking to support the veterans coming home and our generation is important to them and they need our voices to know what they need to fix and they've been on board with helping us fix them and we really appreciate that," she said.

Hagan's press office released this quote attributed to the senator about the backlog:

"I've been calling for action to reduce the unacceptable backlog of veterans disability claims because our veterans should not experience delays accessing their hard-earned benefits.  At my request, the VA is sending the Undersecretary for Benefits to the Winston-Salem regional office, where most claims for veterans in North Carolina are processed, and I look forward to hearing from her what concrete steps the VA plans to take to address the backlog in North Carolina," she said.

"Our brave heroes have sacrificed so much for us, and I will not be satisfied until the backlog is cleared, once and for all," Hagan said.

According to her press secretary, Hagan's office has closed more than 2,700 VA cases, many of which were instances of veterans trying to get benefits.

Burr's press staff would not release the number of cases his office has closed, citing constituent confidentiality.

Burr is a ranking member of the Senator Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

He recently commented on the passage of legislation through the committee.

"Our nation's veterans selflessly give themselves to defend our freedoms, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we provide them with the benefits and services they need and deserve," he said.

"I commend Chairman Sanders and the members of the committee for giving several important pieces of legislation their due consideration," Burr said.

Meanwhile, King is also pushing legislation to fight sexual assaults in the military and a bill that would allow all veterans to get "in-state" status at universities so that tuition would be lower.

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