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Local veterans agree with Veteran's Affairs allegations


Veteran's Affairs is accused of hiding information to avoid paying veteran benefits.

In a congressional hearing Wednesday, Steven Coughlin accuses VA of ignoring study results from environmental health consequences coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf War.  Coughlin mentions burn pits that can expose toxic chemicals to soldiers. 

Robert Carter is a local Gulf War veteran in Waco.  He says he's not surprised by the allegations.  Carter lists off several health problems he's had since the war calling it a "cocktail" of issues.  He says he's had multiple tumors, cancer and join problems.  However, he says he was not able to get full benefits from those issues until over a decade after the war.  He says Veteran's Affairs would not recognize many of the problems as coming from the Gulf War. 

McLennan County Veteran's Service Officer Steve Hernandez says usually the delay in benefits comes from a backlog.  However, he says Coughlin could be right in this particular case. 

Carter says he had to use his diary of events during the war to help VA provide him benefits. 

"It just takes a lot of pressure on them," Carter said.  "Otherwise they're not going to do anything, and unless we keep the pressure on them and the public stands behind us and talks to congressmen, tells them hey this has to happen. Make the VA do this, that's what it's going to take."

Bill Mahon is a Vietnam veteran.  He also says he can see the allegations being true.  Mahon says he's had a history of issues with VA claims. 

"How dare they nickel and dime the veterans to death when we can throw billions of dollars to people who haven't lifted a dime to preserve this nation around the world and we nickel and dime the veterans that defend it," Mahon said.

The Veteran's Affairs did respond to the allegations saying:

"VA has completed 4.1 million claims over the past four years but more work remains.  Too many Veterans are waiting too long for benefits. We recognize delays are unacceptable, and that is why VA is implementing a robust plan to build a paperless, digital disability claims system."

"VA is committed to transparency and has made data on the claims inventory and backlog available to the public. Under this Administration, regional and national performance metrics are available online – including age of inventory and percent over 125 days. VA has provided to Congress information they have requested in addition to information shared in hearings and quarterly briefings with committee staff."

Robert Carter did say he believes the problem is with policies from Washington, not with local Veteran's Affairs programs. 

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