Decatur - A Gulf War veteran Robert Walker, 41, of Findlay is fighting a new battle. This time against for his veterans disability benefits.
Tens of thousands of veterans are waiting a year or more to collect their benefits from the Veterans Administration. Red tape, paper files, antiquated computer systems and apathy have left veterans like Walker fighting the very government they served in the military.
"This has been going on for approximately two and a half years," Walker told WAND News at his Shelby County home in Findlay. A home he is now close to losing because of the VA's failure to pay his claim. "We're behind in our mortgage and they've already started the foreclosure process."
A V.A. Inspector General's report found one regional office of the V.A. in Winston Salem, N.C. had claims files jammed into filing cabinets, overflowing from boxes piled on floors and thousands of additional files stacked on top of cabinets. A report indicated the weight of those files endangered the structural integrity of the entire building.
Decatur Vietnam veteran Robert Martindale filed his initial disability claim in 2006. He didn't start to receive his benefits until nearly four years later and then only a small portion of what he should be entitled to have. WAND pointed out he could die before receiving all of his benefits. "I would probably say that's what they're hoping for, " he responded. "That way they don't have to pay the money out."
The Veterans Administration has told Congress it will have the backlog of claims cleaned up by 2015. In the meantime, Robert Walker will probably lose his home long before then. "Gulf War veteran. You fight for your country and this is the thanks you get from your government," he said.