BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Buffalo Regional Office for the Department of Veterans Affairs is coming under fire for delaying benefits for veterans with disabilities.
The department is best known for providing medical services to our military veterans, but there is another side to the VA. The VA processes disability benefits for returning veterans who have limited ability to earn a living, and Buffalo’s backlog is near the bottom.
Retired U.S. Army veteran Marie Schappacher says, it took her years to get the disability rating she was looking for, after suffering severe back injuries that Marie says make it nearly impossible for her to hold down a job.
“It took 8 years to get the rating I currently have now–8 years,” recalled the Friendship resident, but fortunately for Marie, lesser disability ratings provided her with some income, while she appealed for higher ratings.
But Marie still needed help, “friends, family, social services. Now I am a burden on Allegany County or Cattaraugus County. I fought for my country, and I have to go through social services to get help?”
A recent report based on figures from the Veterans Administration shows, veterans like Marie here in the Buffalo area–and across Upstate New York–have a much longer wait for their disability benefits.
In fact, the report shows, Buffalo’s backlog is fifth from the bottom for the 57 regional benefits offices across the U-S.
The Buffalo Regional Benefit office is located at 130 South Elmwood Avenue, on the 6th floor, where they process veterans’ claims from 31 counties across Upstate New York.
Why is the backlog in Buffalo worse than most of the country? Christopher Grover, who handles veterans disability claims at Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, says there is little transparency at the VA, and it takes a long time, just to get a veteran’s medical file, “That file contains all of their medical information–inservice records, post discharge records, and it could take up to 6 months to even get that.”
While VA officials claim they are bringing down the backlog on a national scale, Grover is not seeing it here, “Nationally I know that they are working on a lot of ways to expedite the procedure. So maybe some offices that are looking at those procedures are decreasing at a faster rate.”
But again, Grover adds, the VA is a tough read, “it is a big mystery as to what exactly the VA’s procedure is.”
Veterans’ disability ratings are based on a number of factors, including their medical or physical condition, and their mental state, all of which can affect a veteran’s ability to earn a living.