AZ veteran, lawmaker push to advance benefit process - CBS 5 - KPHO

KEEPING THE PROMISE

AZ veteran, lawmaker push to advance benefit process

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

One of the biggest complaints from Valley veterans is all the red tape tying up and delaying their benefits and it's not falling on deaf ears.

Mike Thorlin has spent the better part of his life in service, from the National Guard, to the Navy and the Army Reserves, where he came back from two tours in Afghanistan needing spiral surgery for all the nerve damage of the day-to-day physical demands.

When the platoon leader went off active duty, he filed papers and started the process of getting his benefits rolling, but as it is for thousands of other veterans waiting for an answer, Thorlin's case was stalled in the system for more than a year.

He doesn't blame the VA, in fact, he said he's met a lot of well-intentioned workers who are simply overburdened.

"I realized nothing was going to happen unless I found some way to bring attention to the case," Thorlin said.

So he turned to his local congressman's office.

Arizona Congressman David Schweikert said about 25 percent of the hundreds of phone calls that come into his office from constituents every week have to do with veterans services.

"My job as a member of Congress is to make sure I advocate and do everything I can to get the system to work," Schweikert said.

There's a process and an order. It has to start with a release form allowing congressional officers to act on your behalf.

Schweikert's staffers got Thorlin his benefits in two months.

"It is getting better. It's just not getting better fast enough," Schweikert said.

Thorlin is an engineer and his wife works so they didn't struggle to support their children, but he knows soldiers who have.

"We're in a poor economy where people are either unemployed or underemployed. They really need the assistance," Thorlin said.

Schweikert said the transition from paper to electronic records then training staff to minimize mistakes will be they key, but it won't happen overnight and could get worse before it gets better since the drawdown means more veterans are filing for services.

Click here for more details from va.gov.

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