Hundreds of Veterans Look for Answers in VA Claims Backlog
JACKSONVILLE -- The American Legion is taking on the VA backlog in our state and trying to help veterans get their claims answered.
They're in Jacksonville until Friday at the American Legion building on Broadhurst Road with representatives from the Veteran's Benefits Administration. Jacksonville is the first of four stops scheduled for this year in North Carolina.
"[Veterans] know what they want to see, they just don't know how to get there," said Cajun Comeau, director of veteran services for The American Legion. "It's our job to road map that out, show them what it looks like, how to get it and how to present it. And then to support them through the process."
Comeau said they were expecting about 400 veterans over three days. Instead, close to 500 people walked through the door in just the first two hours.
"There was a line wrapped about the building," Comeau said.
U.S. Army retired Sgt. Maj. Willie Faison was one of them. He's been waiting three years for an answer on his claim.
"You feel deserted," Faison said. "You feel like you did all this sacrificing. All those years in the cold--I'm infantry so I really suffered. But I did it with pride because I was protecting the United States and now I get back and looking for three years for an answer, thats too long."
Piles of paperwork in hand, Faison was hoping to get an answer once and for all.
"I'm hoping just to be able to live happy and know that I've got some type of benefits coming to me, that I deserve," he said.
However, as number 211 to walk through the door, Faison's wait was a long one. By lunchtime Wednesday the staff had only reached number 50.
"Does it take a while for the veteran to be seen sometimes? It does," Comeau said. "But four to six hours, is definitely better than four to six months."
Faison said the wait didn't bother him, as long he could leave at the end of the day knowing what to do about his claim.
"If I have to camp outside, I'll be here," he said.
The American Legion will host three more Veteran Benefits Action Centers in North Carolina this year. They'll be in Asheville in April, Charlotte in August and Durham in December.