November 17, 2020

VA Delay: Veteran waits more than 300 days for records

Larry Smith still feels pain from the moment a military training exercise went wrong.

“I landed on the back of my head and my neck and I landed back here. I found out the human body actually bounces. I came down headfirst and I wasn’t able to get my hands down because of the way I came off the obstacle,” says Smith. “I couldn’t feel my feet, couldn’t feel anything.”

Despite injuries like whiplash and a concussion, he still traveled overseas with his Air Force Unit, serving a year in the Persian Gulf War.

“The entire time I had issues with my back, my neck. Headaches, things of that nature,” says Smith.

He continues to experience problems.

“I have hearing loss,” says Smith.

Smith’s doctor suggested he go to the Veteran Affairs Department for treatment and hearing aids.

But when Smith filed the paperwork to start getting that help, he was denied.

He’s appealing the decision and needs all his medical and service records. Problem is, he couldn’t get them.

“It’s just been a battle.

After almost a year of trying, Smith still didn’t have his records or any kind of response from the VA.

“I literally have over 160 hours dedicated to trying to get my medical records,” says Smith.

“The service records are critical to winning VA disability claims,” says Chisholm.

Robert Chisholm has been representing veterans for 25 years.

“You’d think if you put a request in, you’d get it back in 30 days. It could be 6 months to a year,” says Chisholm.

Chisholm says there’s only one center in the entire country that processes all VA records and it just can’t keep up with all the requests.

“I have never heard an explanation, my guess is, it’s staffing. Simply not enough people to process all of the requests that come in,” says Chisholm.

Most veterans are told they’ll have to wait at least three months.

“It’s too long, it’s literally too long for some veterans who are at the end of their lives,” says Chisholm.

Congressman Seth Moulton is a veteran himself. When he heard what was happening to Smith, he wanted to help.

“It shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t take that long to simply find a few pieces of paper,” says Congressman Moulton.

Those papers were finally sent to Smith last week. 307 days to get his records.

“This is, I’m sorry, stupid, that it took this long,” says Smith.

The airman is grateful for the support but worries about vets who don’t have a Congressman helping them.

“I’m appreciative for him making the effort but it’s not an effort he should have had to extend,” says Smith.

A spokesperson for the VA tells me they are testing a new electronic records system in Seattle. But it will not be put in use across the country until 2028.

By:  Sam Smink
Source: WHDH