Diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and recovering from two shoulder surgeries as a result of his service in the Vietnam war, Charles Hooker of Hamilton had to wait 5 ½ years to get his full disability benefit from the U.S. government.
“I first got my Social Security Disability in 84 days, and they used the same records off my VA,” Hooker, 55, said in a telephone conference call with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and members of the news media Wednesday. “I was first turned down. And I appealed it to Washington. They kicked it back to Huntington, West Virginia, and a span of 5 1/2 years is what it took me to get my full 100 percent compensation.”
“Charles, like many of the 800,000 plus Ohio veterans, receives earned benefits for the sacrifice he made to keep our country safe,” Brown said. “But he had to reach out to my office to cut through the red tape at the VA.”
Now, in advance of Memorial Day — and with 25,000 pending disability claims filed by Ohio veterans — Brown has offered a new bill, The Veterans Services Outreach Act, to reduce the backlog. Brown said the new bill that would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to notify Ohio veterans and their caregivers of assistance available to them in filing for VA benefits electronically. As of March 2012, Ohio veterans are awaiting decisions on 25,226 claims — 70 percent of which have been pending for more than 125 days. According to the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, the Ohio backlog is projected to increase by 17 percent in the next four months alone.
Brown said the good news is that more veterans are getting in touch with the VA. He said the department has seen a 40 percent increase in claims since 2008. Last year, VA processed 1 million claims from the nation’s veterans, but 1.3 million new claims were submitted to the VA.Brown: Bill to cut through VA red tape Read more: Portsmouth Daily Times »