Management & Labor

Nevada Ranks Worst in Nation for Processing Veterans' Claims

March 3, 2014
 

Since Sgt. Michael Alarcon was discharged from active duty with the Nevada Army National Guard last summer, his life has turned into a purgatory of paperwork and despair.

Severely injured by a bomb in Iraq in 2009, the veteran’s spine is held together with rods and pins. Although he recovered enough to return to active duty, complications from the injury now leave him in daily pain. He recently underwent surgery to repair a shoulder injured in his final weeks of active duty, and he needs additional surgeries because of complications from his spinal injury.

After his discharge in June after 23 years of military service, Alarcon began applying to receive disability benefits from the Veterans Administration, a process that is still unresolved eight months later.

Adding to his troubles, a few months after his discharge, Alarcon was rear-ended on Interstate 80. His truck was quickly fixed. But Alarcon is still broken.

He appreciates the irony.

Alarcon is not alone. The backlog of VA claims — those older than 125 days — is acute across the nation, and the Veterans Administration’s Regional Office in Reno is at the apex of the problem.

Reno’s VA office, which serves all of Nevada and parts of Northern California, has the longest average wait time for claims processing in the nation, according to recent reports from the VA and the offices of Nevada’s congressional delegation.

And while the office has shown dramatic improvement in efficiency in processing claims in the past year, varying reports put Nevada’s average wait time in 2013 at anywhere from 162 to 433 days, consistently the highest in the nation.

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