“What’s going to happen with those folks?” he said. “It’s going to continue to overload the system, not to mention the mental health aspect. The demand for those services will only continue to rise.”
The concept of the VA, said Joe Mulcahy, a Disabled American Veterans commissioner, is to help veterans with their claims, “not to be an adversary.”
“My main concern is the veterans getting out of the service finding a civilian job and expanding access to mental health care,” he said.
The mental health claims already filed are only the tip of the iceberg, Loebsack said. They will likely spike once more begin returning home.
“And as we’ve seen an increased awareness of PTSD ... we’ve seen more Vietnam and Korean War veterans finally realize, ‘Now I understand what I actually maybe have been suffering from all these years,’” he said.
But when that happens, Cremer said sometimes records of those who served in World War II or the Korean War cannot be found.
“When we send in for records, we get a response back that unfortunately we cannot find your records,” Cremer said. “They say there was a fire in 1973 that destroyed the records. That, in the VA’s eyes, kills that veteran’s claim. What recourse do these guys have? A lot of veterans are missing out on stuff when they need it.”
Danny Mathews, Davis County VA commission member, said more public outreach is needed to make veterans aware of what benefits are available to them once they return.
Vietnam War veteran Phil Traul agreed. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, he said he had no idea what benefits he could take advantage of — and no one helped him find the answer.
“The doctors have said, ‘You know, that’s not our job, we’re not here to tell you about your benefits,’” Traul said. “I agree with that, but there should be somebody.”