MEDFORD, Ore. – With more soldiers returning home from war with new and unique types of injuries, it’s taking longer for veterans to receive disability benefits.
Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs is mandating overtime hours to cut through the backlog. That backlog has reached an estimated 830,000 veterans nationwide.
Locally, Jackson County Veteran Services is seeing an increase in the number of veterans it serves. The office estimates that it saw 6,500 visits in 2012, which is double what they saw four years ago. Supervisor Bob Carson said the nationwide backlog is because of more soldiers returning home with new types of injuries.
“We have troops surviving more catastrophic injuries that weren’t survivable in past years,” Carson said. “So we’re seeing an influx of larger, more complex claims.”
Russ McBride, the director of Southern Oregon Veterans Benefit, said the issue is compounded by the fact that many veterans file more claims as they get older and their injuries and conditions get worse. He said some of the issues are so severe that some veterans cannot hold a steady job. He said the plan to increase overtime to cut into the backlog should allow veterans to see a faster turnaround after they file disability claims.