Veterans can get help with claims Saturday in Arlington

Posted Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Beating the VA Backlog is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sheraton Arlington Hotel, 1500 Convention Center Drive.

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A state effort to push Texas veterans' disability claims through clogged federal processing comes to Arlington this weekend with a "Beat the VA Backlog" event.

Members of the Texas Veterans Commission "strike team" and claims counselors will offer one-on-one assistance to veterans, family members and survivors from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sheraton Arlington Hotel, 1500 Convention Center Drive.

The state of Texas created the strike teams in response to delays in processing disability compensation and pension claims by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Similar events were held recently in Houston, El Paso, San Antonio, and Harlingen.

Chester Slaughter, director of Tarrant County Veterans Services, said his office staff will participating in the day of aid.

"I believe the event will be very beneficial to veterans, survivors and dependents as they will be able to have their VA claims questions answered by highly qualified veteran service officers," he said. "With their assistance ... claims will hopefully get a much quicker resolution.

Delays in claims processing have long been a problem. But in fiscal 2012, the average time to complete a VA disability compensation or pension claim climbed to 262 days, up from 188 the previous year. The longest average wait was in the Waco Regional Office.

Federal officials, who say they are working to fix the problem, attribute the backlog in part to higher demand by veterans returning from 10 years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with severe and complex injuries.

The backlog of disability claims in Texas is almost 65,000, state officials said.

The state created the $1.5 million strike team last summer and, in the four recent events, helped more than 950 veterans, according to the Texas Veterans Commission. Officials hope to expand the strike teams to help more veterans in future years, said Jim Richman, director of claims representation and counseling for the commission.

In Arlington, officials hope to assist 350 veterans.

So far, veterans who attended commission events have reported similar problems with claims.

"Veterans are requesting answers on the status of their long-standing claims, what additional information is missing that might be preventing their claim from being processed and what steps they need to take in order to get their claim rated and completed," said Cheri Smith, a public affairs official in veteran outreach for the commission.

The Arlington event is open to veterans, their families and survivors. Online registration is available, and walk-ins can get help on a first-come, first-served basis.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

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