Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Local veteran among the many awaiting benefits, hosts fundraiser

By Christine Foster

 Journal Reporter

 At the present time, more than half a million veterans are waiting to be approved for veteran’s benefits. According to Representative John Carter, “This is unacceptable!”

 Bobby Collins, a Salado resident, is just one of these veterans who appears to have been lost in the mountains of paperwork required to be awarded disability.

 Collins served his country during the Vietnam War.  Although he was a Navy corpsman, he was attached to a Marine unit that saw hand-to-hand combat.

 Collins graduated from Belton High School in 1967 and signed up for the military at that time.  Now, Collins is suffering from the complications of glaucoma and can no longer work or drive.  Collins has been waiting nine months for the Veterans Administration to approve his disability and, in the meantime, a financial hardship has developed for his family.

“We need to partner together to help a combat veteran during his time of need,” said Bonny Smith, a family friend.

 Smith has organized two online fund raising events that netted more than $1,500.  This coming Saturday, however, Smith has organized the largest of the three fundraisers, a barbecue at the Henry Waskow VFW Post 4008, 2311 S Pearl Street from 4-8 p.m (near the Expo). BBQ plates and a silent auction will be held with all proceeds going to Collins.

 John Carter and at least 17 members of the Texas delegation met with Veterans Benefits Administration Under Secretary Allison Hickey on June 18, and then on June 21 Representative Carter met with the Waco Director John Limpose, who pledged to the lawmakers that he would give this issue his full attention in improving the veteran’s claim process.

 Waco is one of the slowest processing offices in the nation and Carter commented, “This backlog has a detrimental effect not only on the veterans, but their families...I will continue to fight for our veterans and work with the VA until this issue is resolved.”

 Representative Carter’s spokesperson, Sara Threadgill, indicated that in the background information that was provided to the Texas lawmakers there is a transformation plan that was given to Congress on January 25, 2013. This plan has a 2015 goal of processing all claims within 125 days with a 98 percent accuracy rate.

 As of June 8, the VBA has 66 percent of their total claims backlogged. This affects Texas to a large extent as Texas has 1.6 million veterans, more than any other state.

 This plan, however, does not help Collins who needs to receive his benefits immediately.  As John Carter observed, these delays hurt the veteran and his family. The fundraiser that is scheduled for this Saturday at the VFW hall will, as Smith stated, “Hopefully cover their living expenses for the next three months and by then maybe the VA disability benefits will have been awarded.”