Local veterans react to claim backlog

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SARASOTA - Veteran care in our country is facing a serious backlog and the Department of Veterans affairs is coming under fire because of it.  The agency just requested more money for next year's budget but many say despite yearly increases in funding, the issue of processing veterans claims keeps getting worse. 

"I'm a little disappointed in the process that we've been going through," said Charles Jatchel.   For years he's been battling with injuries he received during the Vietnam War and in recent months Jatchel lost one of those battles.  His leg was amputated.  And while that procedure is over, he says he's still fighting to get help.

"In '09 I applied for an increase in my disability due to problems I was having with my gunshot wound in my leg and the amputation of a toe on my left foot."

But 14 years later, Jatchel, who's a Purple Heart recipient, is still waiting for a reply.  "I think it's plenty ample time for the VA to make a response but they haven't," said Jatchel.

And his claim isn't the only one caught up in the back log being processed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

"Over the last several years, the issue has gotten worst and the wait can be over a year for an individual veteran's claim", said U.S Congressman Tom Rooney.

But despite the back log of filings the VA requested $152.7 billion for the 2014 fiscal year, that begins this October.  That's an increase of $2.7 billion over the current year, and just one of many increases.  A situation that has many questioning why the funding increases aren't helping to fix the system.

"When you come and ask for money you need to justify it and let us understand why things are not up to snuff," said Rooney.

In his budget presentation to congress, General Shinseki, the director of the VA, blamed the backlog of claims on the fact that their system is not computerized and all applications are still being done on paper.  The money requested is expected to go towards the system modernizations and hiring new staff.

"I've heard and I've heard that the VA is hiring more people to handle the claims due the increase people returning from Iraq and Afghanistan but apparently its not doing any good," said Jatchel.

And as the department is set to receive next year's funding, local vets say they are looking for change.

"We gave now we should receive a little bit in the way of help," said Jatchel.