The Texas Veterans Commission says it hopes to make some headway on the backlog of veterans with disability claims Saturday in Houston.
The commission is conducting the first Beating the VA Backlog event in order to provide direct, one-on-one assistance to Texas veterans with disability claims currently pending with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The event will take place at the Sheraton Brookhollow in Houston from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also on hand will be members of the TVC State Strike Force Teams, as well as TVC claims counselors, to provide direct and specific assistance to veterans, family members and survivors.
Paul Bastaich, the Denton County veterans services officer, said some people have waited for help for more than a year, and that might prompt them to make the trip from Denton to Houston for a chance to get their claim moving.
He said he has guarded optimism concerning the event.
“What they are trying to do is get a more interactive claims process with the veteran,” he said. “I don’t know how well that is going to work internally, getting external forces involved. The only reason I say that, the reason my office exists is the bureaucracy is so complicated. Often times our bureaucracy is not well understood by most vets. If the regional office is explaining the process in layman’s terms, not legal terms, it may work out very well.”
One contributing factor to the backlog is the Veterans Affairs Department adding three new disabilities related to the exposure of Agent Orange. That caused the backlog to rise, Bastaich said, causing the average wait time for a veteran to hear anything about a claim to be more than a year.
Another factor is the lack of communication between the veteran and the VA, he said.
“This [event] is a great way to break that barrier,” he said.
He said he’d like to see a similar event in Waco, the headquarters for veterans services for a region that includes Denton County.
This event is open to all veterans, their families and survivors, and all services are free. Advance registering will give staff members an opportunity to research claims prior to the event and provide the ability to select an appointment time. Walk-ins are allowed on a first-come, first-served basis as time allows.
For more information, visit www.tvc.texas.gov/tvc/Beating-the-VA-Backlog.aspx.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .