Event helps injured veterans get benefits - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Event helps injured veterans get benefits

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Veterans injured while on active duty often have to go through a long, complicated process in order to get the disability benefits they're entitled to.

According to the Texas Veterans Commission, the average time for getting a decision on a VA claim is 18 to 24 months. Monday, the Texas Veterans Commission teamed up with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the "Take the Pledge" event at the Frank Tejeda VA clinic in San Antonio. Fifty injured veterans considered "pledge cases" will have their claims rated in two weeks.

Those veterans were carefully selected because their claims meet stringent criteria in order for a decision to be made quickly. VA physicians completed medical exams on those veterans Monday. The event will help those who were injured while serving our country get a decision on their claim in a more timely manner.

"It's really a unique opportunity because we're able to get something accomplished in a short period of time that would usually take weeks or months," said Dr. Paul Crandall with the South Texas Veterans Healthcare System. "It's been a great opportunity and one they have truly appreciated because of the timeliness."

There is a significant backlog of VA claims which has led to the delay in getting claims processed.

"As all of us get older, our service connected disabilities worsen with age so we're having intensified needs and the vets of the current wars are filing claims in a higher percentage of vets and more conditions per claim than ever in history so when you put those two scenarios together it's an overwhelming situation in terms of sheer numbers," says James "JR" Richamn, Director of Claims with the Texas Veterans Commission.

Boomer Fernandez, 24, injured his ankle while serving in the Coast Guard. He had to have surgery and was originally told the claims process would likely take a while, but his case was one chosen to be expedited.

"I actually started to enroll this year 2013 and was told I'd be waiting 2 years till I get my claim, probably 6-8 months before they process it before I see doctors. It's been very easy because of whom contacted me and the VA process from what I understand for me it's been incredibly flawless considering I was out for 8 or 9 months now," he said.

The Texas Veterans Commission has formed special teams of counselors called Strike Force Teams to help the growing backlog of VA claims. In FY 2012, the TVC managed a caseload of nearly 180,000 benefit claims

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