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Event offers help to veterans

Denton County Veterans Service office officials told us a few months ago that the process of getting health and financial benefits for veterans has been taking longer than ever before, and area veterans frustrated by the process may be interested in checking out the next Beating the VA Backlog event planned Saturday in Arlington.

The purpose of the event, conducted by the Texas Veterans Commission, is to give veterans who have questions about their claim, appeal or submitting a new claim an opportunity to sit down with a counselor.

The Arlington event will be conducted from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sheraton Arlington Hotel, 1500 Convention Drive. It follows similar events, including meetings in Houston, El Paso and San Antonio.

Ideally, officials told us, counselors will be able to gather any information that is impeding claims from being rated and processed. Cheri Smith, spokeswoman for the veterans commission, said officials are hoping to help at least 350 veterans with their claims during the event.

Over the past several months, the commission’s Strike Force Teams have reviewed more than 10,000 cases accumulated since the teams were implemented, officials told us. More than 2,800 cases that were incomplete have been returned to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for rating and submitted more than 1,200 fully developed claims for rating.

Smith said five of the Beating the VA Backlog events have been held thus far, all staffed by the Strike Force Teams.

Denton County’s veterans service officer Paul Bastaich will be one of the counselors on hand at Saturday’s event.

Bastaich told us that, hopefully, the event will help educate people that a process is in place and that following the process will help speed up handling of claims and ease the backlog.

Unfortunately, he said, a lot of veterans try to file claims on their own or choose to follow the advice of people who don’t understand the procedure. Even the simplest mistakes can up slow the process, he said.

“The push today is to submit fully developed claims, to use the disability benefit questionnaires so all the questions are answered when the claim is originally submitted,” Bastaich told us.

Smith said the prior Beating the VA Backlog events have been successful, and that’s encouraging. It’s good to see that some progress is being made in addressing the backlog of claims.

Veterans can learn more and register for the Arlington event at

We hope local veterans who take advantage of Saturday’s event will find the help they need, and we encourage the Texas Veterans Commission to schedule additional events — perhaps one farther to the north in closer proximity to Denton County veterans.

We owe these veterans a great debt, and the least we can do is come up with a plan to speed up the claims process. After what they’ve been through, telling them “hurry up and wait” just isn’t good enough.