VA reducing extensive benefits backlog - WRBL

VA reducing extensive benefits backlog

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Nearly a million U.S. veterans, including thousands in North Carolina, are waiting years to receive their benefits after retirement.

As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, retired 1st Sgt. Jeff Locklear and fiancé retired 1st Sgt. Linda Daily, voiced their concerns about the backlog six months ago to WNCN.

"Between the both of us, it's 47 years of military service that lives in this house," said Locklear. "Forty-seven years we committed ourselves to the U.S. military and this is what we get."

But now, the couple said they are receiving benefit checks from the VA.

Locklear said it took six weeks following WNCN's story for the VA to get Daily's claim right.

The VA has spent months trying to catch up on claims following 12 years of war.

Cheryl Rawls, the director of the VA's Winston-Salem Regional Office, said the backlog is still a problem but it is shrinking.

The number of claims in N.C. last year totaled 40,000. Rawls said that number has been reduced to 23,000.

The state is home to almost 700,000 veterans. Rawls said the regional VA office asked for help in order to get on top of the backlog.

"We did not have the resources to handle everything that was coming into the door," Rawls said. "We've able to gather and gain support from our senior leaders to where we can actually send out claims across the nation to other regional offices to help us."

North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan said she helped in sending a letter to VA Director Eric K. Shinseki requesting help at the VA's Winston-Salem Regional Office.

"In March, when I was looking at the situation, we sent a letter to the Director of the VA, Shinseki, complaining about the backlog. He sent 25 extra people to theVA in Winston."

Rawls also said a new paperless system is allowing the office to get on track to meet a goal of completing claims within 125 days.

"In March, 75 percent of my inventory was over 125 days. Today, 66 percent of it is over 125 days," Rawls said. 

For veterans like Locklear and Daily, every little bit helps.

"She's back in school and we're paying the bills now so it is relief," Locklear said. 


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