Matheson calls for quicker response to veterans' requests for help

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Some disabled veterans across the country, and here in Utah, wait too long to get the help they deserve. Rep. Jim Matheson wants the Department of Veterans Affairs to speed up the process.

Matheson says his office is getting more calls from disabled veterans. Some do not get disability compensation quickly, and the number of veterans in need is growing.

Last week, Matheson sent this letter to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Matheson writes: "An increasing number of veterans applying for this compensation in my district and around the country are finding that their financial needs are not being met quickly enough."

We talked to a disabled Vietnam vet in Hurricane who lived on food stamps and endured temporary shut-offs of utilities while he waited for disability compensation.

Matheson calls for quicker response to veterans' requests for help

According to federal numbers, the number of claims awaiting a VA decision grew more than 50 percent from 2003 to 2007. The average wait on claims grew from about three and a half months to four and a half months -- and the numbers have gotten worse.

"We have more and more veterans due to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with the down economy, we have more and more of these folks who, maybe they can find work in a good economy, but they're having more trouble finding work now. So, you're seeing increased pressures in terms of filing claims," Matheson said.

Matheson does not think the problem is a lack of funding, but possibly inefficiencies in processing claims.

We talked with the director of the Utah Division of Veterans Affairs. He says the Salt Lake office for veterans benefits responds more quickly than other regional offices, and Matheson agrees. But overall, the response needs to improve.


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Jed Boal


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