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State Law Aiming To Help Vets Held Up By Federal Backlog


Photo: Robyn (flickr)

Korean War veterans sit on a bench. With more, younger soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is facing a large backlog.

Hoosier veterans may still have to wait months or years before receiving federal benefits despite a state effort to get them into the federal system more quickly.

House Bill 1387 focuses on training and paying city and county veteran’s service officers to ensure that Indiana veteran’s claims are filed correctly and promptly in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs system. The problem is that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a backlog of about 10,000 claims  in Indiana, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

But the hope is that by getting Hoosier vets in the system now, it will save them time when the VA catches up on its paperwork.

“There is a future out there, and at some point the lines cross to where the initiatives that we do now will come across and they will meet the line of the Veteran’s Affairs nationally,” Indiana’s Veteran’s Affairs Department Director Jim Brown says.

Brown says he anticipates it will take about two and half years for the backlog to clear.

Co-founder of the Help Indiana Vets Foundation Dean Graham says that is not good enough. He says he supports the state’s efforts, but many veterans need help now.

“We’re going to take responsibility for our veterans,” he says. “We’re going to do this, and take it not out of the hands of the federal government, but while they’re back logged and they are doing their thing, we’ll show them how we do it here in the Hoosier state and we’ll take care of our veterans.”

Graham says vets need basic services. He says just last week, two people called his organization and asked where they might be able to get money for food.

Brown says that is not what the federal benefits are meant for. He says local non-profits are best equipped to handle more immediate needs.

For more on laws enacted this year aimed at helping veterans, listen to Noon Edition.

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