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Congressional Leaders And Va Officials Hear Veterans’ Concerns


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TOWN OF TONAWANDA

VA officials hear veterans’ concerns

By Lou Michel NEWS STAFF REPORTER

Updated: 04/05/08 7:01 AM

Jeremy Lepsch, a Marine from North Tonawanda, holds up a bag filled with prescription medications as he spoke Friday of his frustration over mental health care for veterans.

Combat veterans unloaded a barrage of complaints over the government’s treatment of them during an emotional meeting Friday now that they are back home.

Listening to their frustrations at the 2z-hour session in a Town of Tonawanda veterans hall were top Buffalo Veterans Affairs officials, county and state veterans workers and representatives of area politicians.

Continued delays in correcting clerical errors in discharge papers used to determine eligibility for VA benefits, long waits to see doctors and inability to quickly diagnose traumatic brain injuries were among the concerns.

Iraq veteran Lewis Campbell, 28, approached the microphone dressed in a suit and po lished shoes. The Fredonia man said he was not used to dressing up.

“I feel like ripping this suit off and running out the door,” said Campbell in attempting to express how his war-related, post-traumatic stress has left him struggling to function in civilian life.

But instead of running away, he told of delays that he has faced in getting the Army to amend his discharge papers.

The anguish of his war memories, he explained, has left him sometimes wishing he was no longer alive. Earlier this week, he watched a TV report on the war in Afghanistan and how a child had been wounded.

“It triggered a flashback to a little boy I saw in Iraq who was decapitated in front of his mother who would not stop screaming. I wish I was dead to get this stuff out of my head,” said Campbell, in making a plea for improved mental health care for veterans.

Melissa Kreiger, the wife of wounded Iraq veteran Christopher Kreiger of the Town of Tonawanda, urged the local VA to find ways to more quickly identify traumatic brain injuries.

“. . . My husband began having seizures and was in the VA hospital six times. They’d always give us more pills. Now he’s at the poly-trauma VA in Virginia and he’s off six of the pills and there’s no more seizures,” she said.

Underscoring the VA’s reliance on medication, Jeremy Lepsch, a Marine from North Tonawanda, held up a supermarket bag filled with bottles of VA prescriptions as he spoke of his frustration over mental health care.

But those who spoke stressed that they had not come to the meeting, attended by about 60 people, to tear down the VA, but to help it find ways to improve.

Michael S. Finegan, director of the VA’s Western New York health care system, said he plans to include more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on the local VA advisory council and that he and his staff are diligently working to hire more employees to deliver care and streamline the process.

A top priority at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Bailey Avenue, Finegan added, is to expand the psychiatric ward.

Donna P. Terrell, director of the VA’s Buffalo Regional Office for claims, said changes are being made to speed up the paperwork process between government departments.

lmichel@buffnews.com

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Here is the thing Pete. Chris Simmance was delayed for PTSD treatment and told several times and told there was no way to be seen until July 19, 2008. Friday was the conference. Monday morning at 10 am they called him and told him they have an opening for Pysch on Thursday at 10. The point being made here is it should not have to take a conference and news to be in order for veterans to be treated, should it?

I have full 2 1/2 hour video on this.

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They have just posted job specs to hire more VSOs at Buffalo VARO Spike-

that is a good thing- but the training takes so much time to really be effective that it means we will be dealing with more people at Buffalo who are newbies-

Also Buffaloers-I have tried 20 times to get a status on my claims for the past week and a half-

someone said their calls are being routed to Ohio- where there are PLENTY of problems there-see Jim Strickland's column on this RO-

and all I get is a busy signal-

"Donna P. Terrell, director of the VA’s Buffalo Regional Office for claims, said changes are being made to speed up the paperwork process between government departments"

Donna Terrill got a employee Bonus from the VA and yet she cannot speed up claims within her own gov department-the Buffalo VA.

Commendable work Spike- that you have done here-

and it seems to me that when things get into the Press-then vets get action-

By the way all The Washington post won 6 Pulitzer prizes yesterday and one of them was for exposing the scandalous travesty at Walter Reed Hospital last year.

The stories on Walter Reed got NAtional attention and this helped get that situation corrected.

Otherwise it never would have been looked into by the VA and changed at all.

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Berta-

Fyi. Let's just put it this way....I received this following information from a reliable source. The two positions are replacements for what is already recently lost. Here is a cold hard fact, I have the numbers for you to chew on. In the VARO there are 300 personnel. Of that 300 personnel, 50 are Adjudicators. There are 15 Rating Board Staff. T(meaning if fully staffed they have 65 staff members handle claims) they just lost 2 Raters. Those that you speak of are "replacements" for the two they recently lost. So what does that mean???? If you crunch the numbers it comes to 21.6667 % so lets round up to 22% of the staff handle claims at the Buffalo RO. The other 78% are in education, supervision, management....so I am told. I am also told that the VARO *was* working on Saturdays. There is a influx of claims coming in from Ft Drum every time a plane touch downs.

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Berta, by the way thank you for the kind words....However, those who know me personally know I am for the Vet, Veteran's Families and for the Military. No motives but to help and advocate in whatever way possible. Berta, if you don't mind me asking what agency or organization handles your claims? I may be able to assist.

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