OTTUMWA — Veterans are not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, said Congressman Dave Loebsack, meaning more resources are needed to enact a major shift in what happens when a soldier returns from war.
Loebsack, D-Iowa City, sat down with local veterans Monday afternoon at Hotel Ottumwa to discuss ongoing problems, including backlogged claims and poor access to jobs and mental health services for returning veterans.
Wapello County Veterans Affairs director Marty Cremer said his concern lies in Loebsack’s keyword: “resources.”
“Is it money? Is it manpower?” he asked. “Right now people in my position can look at the claim and see whose desk it’s sitting on and the process goes to this desk, then another, then on to the next. How many sets of eyes have to see each claim before someone makes a decision on it? The more desks we put in the line, it adds to the time of the claim.”
Loebsack said the process needs to be streamlined.
“Just because there are more resources going in doesn’t mean there should be more desks,” he said.
Jefferson County VA Commission director Ray Chambers said the majority of claims filed in his county are processed within six months to a year. Today, “eBenefits” allows veterans to watch the status of their claim. For more information, go to www.ebenefits.va.gov.
Cremer encourages all veterans to take advantage of eBenefits and become active in watching the status of their claim.
“Don’t just wait for a letter to come in the mail,” Cremer said. “Stay on top of it. I myself run the gamut with the length of claims. A couple I started in May last year still haven’t come through, but I had one come through today that took 17 days.”