Veteran Claims VA Lost His Benefits Paperwork Several Times
ST.LOUIS - Melvin Wright and his wife, Edith, say they have not been able to get some of the benefits they deserve because they claim the Veterans Administration regional office in St. Louis has lost the paperwork for their benefits more than five times.
Wright served in the Army during Viet Nam and had a 20-year career in active duty and the reserves.
Now he says he lives day to day in pain from several illnesses he believes were combat related.
Wright goes on to list those as knee problems, back problem, high blood pressure, renal disease, and sleep apnea.
His wife has stacks of her husband's paperwork in their house, paperwork she says has been sent to the VA and lost many times.
"We were supposed to receive it in 2010. The paperwork kept getting delayed. They couldn't find it. We kept submitting it back and forth. No one could find it. I take it back to my service officer. He puts it back in. Still no letters. We weren't receiving any letters," says Edith Wright.
Bud Lane, service officer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, has been helping the Wrights and was exasperated when KOMU 8 News spoke with him, saying "I've sent the paperwork several times, and they continue to lose them."
Sandra Davenport, spokesperson for the VA, said the Wrights were given the retroactive payment due them in December of 2012. She said they were denied some benefits like affordable housing because the didn't meet the eligibility requirements for them. Davenport said because there was a disagreement with those denials, the paperwork was sent to a VA appeals board in Washington.
Wright said the payment they received last year didn't include an increase in coverage as promised, one that would have given him 10 percent coverage to 30 percent coverage.
Wright also said she didn't know her paperwork was going to be sent to Washington until she says she "received a letter saying it was already there at the appeals board."
Rebecca Ford is the director of the non-profit organization Quiet Voices, at which she helps veterans struggling with obtaining their benefits look into other options that would help them get by more easily.
Ford said she has helped more than 400 veterans with similar problems this past year. She said the VA needs to be more open with what it tells veterans.
"They do not give veterans all the information that I do. They don't tell them what they need to qualify. They don't talk to them about the fully developed claims.They don't tell them about other resources available to them community and statewide," said Ford.
Ford also said the veterans that come to her aren't just from St. Louis. She gets veterans from areas all over Missouri including Camden County, Rolla, Osage County, and Columbia.
Ford said that by taking so long in giving veterans their benefits, those veterans struggle to live normal lives.
"People are losing their homes. They're having to make choices between medicine and food. They're having to sacrifice so much so they can keep their home. Women with ill husbands are working two jobs just to pay the bills. They're going to food pantries to feed their children. This shouldn't be happening," said Ford.
Edith Wright agrees, saying she has put aside her own health, despite her family history of cancer, to take care of her husband.
"I should be checked every year, but so far I haven't been checked in three years. I want my husband's benefits so I can take care of myself, so I can continue to take care of him," said Wright.
Davenport said the Wright's appeal is currently on a waiting list to be looked at by the VA appeals board.
"Only thing I want now, I want them to fix this," said Melvin Wright.
But neither the Wrights nor the VA could say where in the waiting list the appeal currently stands.