Fox59 was the first to expose why veterans are not getting the help they need when they return home.
A paperwork backlog means Hoosier heroes could be waiting years to get the help they need. Just after our story aired Monday night, even more veterans started coming forward. Now, it appears help is on the way for some.
"I was very happy about that and surprised."
Air Force veteran Lisa Wilken got a phone call just hours after Fox59’s investigation aired.
“He let me know that the VA was ready to rate my disability claim for temporary 100 percent after my surgery,” said Wilken.
Her claim has been pending since February of last year at the Indianapolis Regional Office of Veterans Affairs. Fox59 found the backlog averaged 241 days to process veterans' disability claims.
Tuesday morning, a service officer with a veteran’s organization told Lisa her claim was in the final phase.
“I asked the question, “I don't know if you know that this report aired last night but the timing of this is quite suspect,” and he said he was not speaking for r the regional office in any way but not to consider it a coincidence,” said Wilken.
While the VA is now taking care of Wilen’s claim, there are still many more Hoosier heroes coming forward whose claims are in limbo.
“I was very surprised and relieved to know that other people are having the same problems that I’m not the only one going through that battle,” said Jennifer Wright, Army veteran.
Jennifer said she calls the regional office once a week. She filed her claim two years ago.
"The time that the Indianapolis VA takes to appeal is 308 days even though mine's already been 300 days. That's the average,” said Wright.
Tired of waiting, Jennifer is reaching out to fellow veteran Dean Graham. Dean's claim for disability compensation has been pending for two years.
Since hearing Dean’s story, the public affairs officer at the VA told Fox59 they are now reviewing his claim. But Dean said the problem is bigger than him so the solution needs to be bigger, too.
“I would like to know what the total number is of back claims that they have and I would like all those claims to be settled prior to mine.
“When they make a call to me to settle my claim I’d like to know that every other veteran has been taken care of.”
The Indianapolis VA Regional Office responded to Fox59's investigation with only a written statement that read in part:
“VBA continues to see a rise in disability benefits claims it receives. This increase in claims is caused by a variety of factors including a recent increase in the number of new Veterans, and the additional conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure for Vietnam Veterans. Also, claims filed by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans tend to be more complex in nature.
"Currently, it takes VBA an average of 241 days to process a claim for disability benefits. We anticipate processing time will improve as a number of transformation initiatives are introduced as part of VA’s transformation plan, which are designed to enable VBA to meet its goals of processing claims within 125 days at 98 percent accuracy by 2015."