The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has long experienced a hellishly deep backlog that has caused severe delays of veterans benefits for those in need. One Vietnam veteran has decided to take matters into his own hands, filing a class action lawsuit against the VA.
Conley Monk Jr., the lead plaintiff in the case, is a Marine veteran who said he has waited for years for disability benefits stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder and exposure to toxic chemicals. He said he came under fire in 1969 and 1970 and was exposed to Agent Orange during his time in the war.
The New York Times said he was diagnosed with PTSD and diabetes (sometimes related to exposure of Agent Orange) in 2011 and was denied VA benefits. After appealing that decision in 2013, he has yet to hear anything from the VA on his disability benefits. Monk told the Times that it has been frustrating to “be stuck in limbo.”
“It’s been hard to make ends meet,” Monk told the Times. “And we Vietnam veterans are getting older. We can’t wait forever.”
Reducing the number of claims of claims in the VA backlog has been a focus of VA, but the Times reports that appeals are at an all time high at nearly 300,000. That means much like Monk, many others may be suffering as they wait for a decision on their veterans benefits from VA.
In the opinion of attorney Harold W. Conick, the VA’s backlog could be trimmed by converting the Veterans paper records to an electronic platform. The VA is apparently in the process of doing this, but it is taking far too long.
Additionally, it would be helpful if VA personnel were more open and cooperative with counsel for veterans in attempting to resolve claims. This is not currently being done; the system is very adversarial to both the veteran and their counsel. “Stone walling” is standard operating procedure at the VA and delays the adjudication of claims. This needs to change to better serve the U.S. veterans in the benefit claims process.