Backlog in claims forces fast-tracking, preferential treatment

Follows national mandate for 56 regional offices

 UPDATED 7:56 PM HST May 28, 2013
HONOLULU -

"So, this is the kind of letter that comes every six months," said Gulf War veteran Derrick Brown, who has been fighting for benefits for more than 20 years.

"The whole process just keeps repeating itself," he said.

He believes he and so many other veterans are dealing with a system that's broken.

"Across the country we have among the longest waiting periods for veterans to get their benefits as well as some of the highest numbers of backlogs," said U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

On Tuesday, she met with representatives at Honolulu's Regional Office where claims processors have been ordered to work a minimum of 20 hours of overtime, through September, to put a bigger dent the problem.

That office alone is working through 5,951 claims.

4,388 claims are more than 125 days old.

2,329 claims are more than a year old.

"Really one of the biggest obstacles that has to be overcome is the ability for the Department of Defense to talk to the veteran’s administration," said Gabbard.

"Every time I went up there I was seeing a different person," said Brown.

Gabbard said, to this day, the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs work on different systems.

To verify claims, in the entire Honolulu office, there are only two people with the authority to access both.

"I don't feel there is anything I can do," said Brown.

Staff have also been ordered to fast-track veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, those who are homeless, terminally ill, POWs, or seriously injured.

And that means a longer wait for veterans like Brown.

"I hope things will change, if not for myself than for the veterans who are behind me. There's a lot more people in need now," he said.
 

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