Hampton Roads veterans still waiting up to 30 months for disability claims

Posted at 8:17 PM, May 23, 2013

Iraq war veteran James Edwards says he's been waiting 186 days for a decision on his VA disability claim, filed last November for physical and mental problems documented from his time in the Army.

“I did my 4 ½ years, I got out, and I did not come out the same way I went in,” said Edwards.

Not able to work because of his PTSD and back problems, James desperately needs the money a VA disability check would bring, so he called the VA office in Roanoke this past week to ask yet again about his claim, and decided to record it.

“Welcome to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs telephone assistance service.”

When the representative answered the phone, James asked how much longer he would have to wait.

“The average time frame they are showing at your regional office is about...wait, that can't be right. Hold on for one moment, okay?” asked the representative.

20 seconds later…

“Yep, the average time your claim will take at your regional office as of today is 30 months.”

James, just like the telephone representative, was shocked.

“You’re telling me it’s going take 30 months from today, as in today, before I have a decision, and I’ve already waited 186?” said Edwards

He is not alone--according to the VA's weekly claims report, there are about 28,000 claims currently pending at the Roanoke, Virginia office, which serves Hampton Roads.

They say the average wait time for a final decision is 398 days.

“If you have that many claims and not enough to go through them, you might be understaffed,” said Edwards.

Under mounting pressure, the VA promised last month to expedite claims decisions for veterans who have waited more than one year, and even approved overtime for all claims workers to try to speed things up.

According to numbers released Wednesday, though, it only helped the agency get through 34,000 claims--more than 786,000 veterans are still waiting for decisions—just like James, who has another 30 months to go.

“Why should it take you 2 ½ years to figure anything out?