US Homeless Vets Play the Waiting Game

In December 2006, when U.S. Army Specialist James Eggemeyer filed a disability claim with the Veterans Administration, he had already joined the ranks of the United States's burgeoning population of homeless veterans, and was living out of his girlfriend's Ford Explorer. So when the VA responded with a letter to his old address requesting that he come in for a physical examination, he missed the appointment.

Eggemeyer pawned everything he could and then he went to get help, from Tony Reese, a Veterans Services representative working for Martin County, Florida. Reese let Eggemeyer use his office as his address and made sure that James showed up at all his appointments. He checked that all of James's documents were in order and used the VA computer system to ensure his claim was on the right bureaucrat's desk at the regional office in Saint Petersburg.

But even with that, the process dragged on. Indeed, the VA's own statistics show that Specialist James Eggemeyer received what could best be described as "standard treatment".

Since the start of the Iraq war, the backlog of unanswered disability claims has grown from 325,000 to more than 600,000. On average, a veteran must wait almost six months to have a claim heard. If a veteran loses and appeals a case, it usually takes at about three years.

[Excerpt of an article by Aaron Glantz, IPS]

One in five Iraq veterans return home seriously impaired by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Veterans' disability payments and demobilization costs could reach a price tag of $1 trillion.

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