COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- About 500,000 veterans are still waiting for the Department of Veterans Affairs to process their benefits. It's a backlog that has U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown frustrated and calling for the government to do more to fix the problem.
“The VA must make immediate and necessary changes in order to eliminate its disability claims backlog,” Brown said.
Brown has introduced legislation that he says would solve the backlog and prevent them in the future. The Veterans Services Outreach Act would provide veterans with information and assistance they need to improve their claims. The Claims Processing Improvement Act would give the VA the tools Brown says it needs to better attack the backlog so that it can be eliminated.
Progress has been made on the issue with the backlog reduced by 120,000 cases in the past six months, but Brown says more needs to be done.
"Most of the federal government's budgets have been cut, but the VA's budget has gone up. They've hired more people, they've trained more people, it's still not good enough," he said.
The backlog is blamed on a couple of different factors including more than a million new claims filed each year, an increase in the complexity of the claims, and new veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA has also granted service-connection for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.
Robert Vermaaten, an Army veteran from Grove City who waited a year and half for his disability benefits, says dealing with the VA hasn't been easy.
"It's aggravating," he said.
He's heard stories of other veterans waiting more than three years to have their claims filed. He feels it's just another wound for veterans from the Vietnam War who were already mistreated by the public when they returned from battle.
Vermaaten has diabetes and believes he got it from being around Agent Orange since he has no family history of the disease. The VA now sends the retired truck driver a check for $255 a month.
"That don't even pay for your medication a month," he said.
Disability payments usually range from $125 to $2,800 a month depending on the level of disability.