Veterans Disability Delays

Platoon Sergeant Rafael Rodriguez gave 13 years to the US army. He was blasted out of a humvee in Bagdad, jumped out of planes in Afghanistan, dodged explosives in Mosul.

Rafael Rodriguez, Veteran

"I'm still in physical pain, everyday.”

Scott Dalrymple, an army medic in Iraq. He says 2 years of the noise and chaos there ruined his hearing. He's 41 and now needs two hearing aids.

Scott Dalrymple, Veteran

"I think it stinks."

These soldiers are getting medical treatment at VA hospitals and turned to the Boston office of the US Veterans Administration for their disability benefits. But we found: All they've gotten so far is paperwork and delay.

Rafael applied five months ago.

Rafael Rodriguez, Veteran

“I have not heard anything back from them.”

Scott applied eight months ago.

Scott Dalrymple, Veteran

“You come home and they're supposed to take care of you, not make you wait and wait and wait.”

The disturbing reality they're likely to wait much longer like Army vet Gerry D’Entremont.

Gerry built roads in Vietnam yanking open asbestos-laden bags of cement and getting doused with agent orange. He now has a staggering list of serious medical problems.

Gerry D’Entremont, Veteran

"I could die any day."

But instead of disability payments all he's gotten from the Boston VA stacks of paperwork-and repeated form letters–all telling him "As we have a great number of claims, action on yours may be delayed." He's been waiting for three years.

Gerry D’Entremont, Veteran

"They deny you, deny you, deny you. And wait until you die."

We found the VA's Boston office is drowning in applications like Gerry's and Rafael's and Scott's. The VA is supposed to deal with such requests in 125 days, but our investigation found right now almost 7000 vets in desperate need of help have waited longer than that. Much longer.

Hank

“Do they go longer than 6 months?”

Bob Hogan, Burlington Veterans Service Officer

“Yes.”

Hank

“Longer than a year?”

Bob Hogan, Burlington Veterans Service Officer

“Yes.”

Hank

“Longer that two years?”

Bob Hogan, Burlington Veterans Service Officer

“Yes.”

Hank

“Longer than 3 years?”

Bob Hogan, Burlington Veterans Service Officer

“Yes.”

Hank

“What do you think about that?”

Bob Hogan, Burlington Veterans Service Officer

“It's very frustrating.”

Boston VA officials in the JFK building admit they're behind but they refused to talk to us on camera. In a statement, they said:

"Veterans have been filing in record numbers" "which has resulted in lengthier processing times"

Discouraging words for the vets who fear they can't afford to wage this battle much longer.

Gerry D’Entremont, Veteran

"It's an awful way to treat someone who's served your country."

Officials at the Boston VA did tell me they've hired more people to battle the backlog–but they admit–they'll be fighting this problem for years.

In the newsroom, I'm Hank Phillippi Ryan.

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