Vets angered at VA pace

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Stuart Novotny was in Vietnam less than six months before he was wounded and sent home in 1967.

Several years ago, he was diagnosed with having post-traumatic stress disorder and filed a claim with the Veteran’s Administration.

“As of today, 619 days I’ve waited for them to process my claim,” Novotny said.

Since then, Novotny said he’s been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and is diabetic. He filed a new claim last October and is still waiting for a response.

Local veterans said Wednesday there is too much red tape involved with filing claims.

“Let’s say I had 60-70 percent disability from the VA,” said Leo Connelly. “Then the VA will come back and say we want to prove you were in Vietnam. It’s just ludicrous. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon Lake, said Wednesday the VA has a backlog of about 490,000 claims. He told veterans Wednesday he’s pushing a new bill to streamline the process.

“Our legislation will help them do that, but they’ve gotten more money and more trained personnel to process those claims,” Brown said. “They’ve got to do better.”

Area veterans said more money and people won’t fix what they believe to be a bloated bureaucracy.

“The root cause of the problem is more contingent with the way things are done,” said area veteran Mark Walters.

Novotny said the problem he and others endure is sad.

“They’re pulling my chain and everybody else’s,” Novotny said. “And they could do this a lot faster if they really wanted to.”

For help with a claim, call the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission at 330-740-2450 or email blandgraver@mahoningcountyoh.gov.

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