Verna Jones (right), director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, receives feedback from an area veteran at the Legion's townhall meeting in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Lucas Carter)

Veterans air concerns about VA benefits process

Lorenzo Neal of Rock Hill, S.C., appealed his Department of Veterans Affairs benefits claim decision in 2010. Monday night at an American Legion veterans town hall meeting in Charlotte, N.C., Neal gave an update on that appeal.

“In this remand it states, ‘this case must be afforded expedient treatment,’” Neal said, reading the notice he got from the Veterans Benefits Administration. “This appeal was remanded in November 2010. The (VA) regional office has yet to make a decision in my case. Now is that expedient?”

Neal was one of a handful of veterans who spoke up at the town hall meeting, which took place in conjunction with the Legion’s 96th Annual National Convention in Charlotte. The purpose of the meeting was to get a glimpse of area veterans’ experiences in dealing with VA’s health-care and benefits systems.

“We want VA to succeed,” said Ralph Bozella, chairman of the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division and its System Worth Saving Task Force. “Nobody wins if VA fails, and we’re here to work in partnership for VA to succeed, to serve veterans at the highest level of integrity possible.”

Bill Stewart, a veteran from Little River, S.C., said he wanted to see a shift in how veterans our viewed. “They need to have everyone in Washington, D.C., respect them,” he said. “That has been lost somewhere in the files of what’s been going on at this time. Restore the respect for those who have served. They’re not deserving of what’s been going on.”

One veteran said it was criminal that Neal has waited four years for a decision on his appeal. Another veteran said he wouldn’t take his dog to the medical center in Salisbury, N.C., and suggested scrapping the entire VA health-care system in favor of a vouchering program.

Rory Riley, a staff member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, attended the meeting and praised the Legion for its efforts this summer in pushing for VA reform and reaching out to veterans through its six previous Veterans Crisis Command Centers (VCCCs) it’s conducted throughout the country.

“I can tell you (the VCCCs) are very effective,” she said. “They’re also very effective for the committee. I’m here mostly to listen, take notes to hear your stories so I can bring those back to Congress, let people know what’s happening on the ground and … how we can respond to that.”

The Legion will have a VCCC set up today starting at noon and running through Thursday night. The center will be located in the Charlotte Convention Center in Rooms 204 and 205, Ballroom Level. Operating hours for the crisis center are noon to 8 p.m. today, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

Members of the Legion’s national staff, along with local Legionnaires, staff from VA facilities and volunteers from other organizations, will be on hand at the VCCC to assist veterans and their families. Services provided will include assistance in filing for VA appointment scheduling, grief counseling, benefits claims and help with enrollment in VA health care.

“VA is broken, and it’s up to us to make sure that we help fix it,” said Verna Jones, director of the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. “There’s an adage that says it takes a whole village. We’re the village. That’s VA, that’s The American Legion, that’s other veterans organizations. It’s all community partners – and you, the veteran, taking responsibility to help make your VA exactly what you need it to be.”

Legionnaire George Cade of Fayetteville, N.C., saw firsthand the effect of one of the Legion’s VCCCs when one was conducted in his city. Nearly 800 veterans came to the center. One was awarded a disability rating approval on the spot. “The next day he had $11,000 in his account,” Cade said. “It’s the best thing that’s happened to us for them to travel with these veterans crisis centers.”


  1. Phoenix VA: I was told by the local VA Derm. clinic that I did not have skin cancers and that scared me because of bleeding, etc. so I quit going to the VA and went to the AZ I just had my 4th surgery to remove 3 basal and 1 squamous cell carcinoma cancers that I complain many times over a two year period at the local Phx.VA! (This was winter 2013 when I quit going to the VA Derm. clinic)
  2. I know that a lot of veterans are in favor of the vouchering system and I believe that is a great idea. I also believe that if the VA would open its staffing to allow local physicians to practice medicine in the VA hospital for their patients, the conditions in those hospitals would improve. The VA claims that it operating short handed on medical staff, and that is probably true but it would not be true if they opened their doors to the medical community and allowed them to practice medicine in the VA hospital for Veterans and other eligible persons. Veterans on Medicare are treated by both Medicare and the VA. It should be one or the other. Currently, Medicare only recognizes the VA prescription drug program but not the health care the VA affords. I believe that if the VA were recognized and Medicare insurance paid the VA for benefits the same as they pay civilian clinics, we would see an improvement in VA services.
  3. I was in the Navy in 1967 for 3 months I developed a blood clot and was told that I would get a honorable medical discharged. I got a honorable discharge after the doctor told me he would not let me out if I didn't tell them that there was nothing wrong with me. I fought for 3 yrs and got a 10 percent discharge for over 40 yrs I have been fighting them. they tell me my records burnt up with the fire. I HAVE HAD THIS SNORING PROBLEM SINCE I BEEN IN THE NAVY and until 2014 I was finally diagnosed with sleep apnea I believe the VA should give me
  4. I Live in Rock Hill, SC now But I Just Started this not-for profit 501(c) 3 called Pearls of Grace Enterprizes INC to help veterans and Seniors and Children of Cancer Victims. I STILL NEED HELP FROM THE VETERANS
  5. I was once a member of the legion, but I could see that the legion and dav, and all the other so called veterans groups don't help vets unless they know you in your small town, other wise they don't do anything for you but agree with congress and all of those that are paying them. As it has been in the past, the new commander of the legion is coming in with the same old speech about the founding fathers, but nothing about getting the back log crap done away with. I have been waiting for a decision on by app, and now the va is trying a new thing with the back log turn down all claims for benefits and clear the back log that way. The new VA Sec, is no better than the old one. They all are paid and they just don't care about us veterans. Anyone that says I will listen to you and take it back to congress is telling the lie that they are toll to say, they never mean it but it sound good to the ear.
  6. I find no problem with my dealings with the VA in Rhode Island. After reading of the problems experienced by other Vets throughout the country I am glad that the staff here work the double shifts . Now if only some one can cut down on the paperwork necessary with filing new claims , and see to the out-processing of individuals hitting their ETS it would be nice. A reminder to all NCO'S. The rule is Complete the mission and the welfare of the troops.
  7. I filed complaints about my local VA 5 years ago that went all the to Congress and came back all the way back to the local facility. I had to force that group to respond eventually. The only change made was they stopped charging vets for eye glasses. Later, though, they came up with this co-pay ruse for any substance they sent you.
  8. I too have been waiting years on my appeal compensation case with the VA. I am in favor of closing down the VA system as the VA system does not work for veterans. Give veterans the ability to find their own doctor and care and pickup the cost of treatment. If the VA is closed down all the workers will find new jobs in the healthcare field and not be burdened with the VA culture of working against veterans at every turn.
  9. I am a Viet Nam Veteran and have lost friends to this VA system. I do not belong to any veterans groups because I have yet to see any veterans group stand up to the government to protect veterans. I am watching the speech by President Obama and have heard enough LIES that I would have to walk out if I was there. I would die to protect this man as President, but I also believe that we, the veterans, are responsible for the protection of the average citizen from any "PUBLIC SERVANT" who would usurp our Constitution and give preference to any way of life that takes our LIBERTY. Mr. Obama spoke of better Mental Health Care. How many of us know Veterans who have had their LIBERTY curtailed, not because they were a threat to their families, but because their political views were not in alignment with CONTROL SEEKING "PUBLIC SERVANTS" that believe it is their job to SUPERVISE THE PUBLIC, not to SERVE THE PUBLIC. PUBLIC SERVICE is a privelige not a right and should have no job security, especially for those who refuse to serve the public and the Constitution and have the attitude that they are there for their own gain and not to serve. Unions gave us "a days pay for a days work (and then some)" but took away the concept of "A DAYS WORK FOR A DAYS PAY!!!" We are Veterans and swore an oath " uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and DOMESTIC." EMPHASIS ADDED
  10. not just the va that's broke. American legion service officers who sit on their duffs and don't return phone calls and treat veterans they are supposed to be helping like second rate citizens. ie Boston
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