Valley Veteran Blames VA Backlog for Not Getting Appeals Hearing
BROWNSVILLE – A Rio Grande Valley veteran says backlog at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is why he's waited years on an appeal.
Brownsville native John Hohn served as a U.S. Army helicopter gunner crew chief in Vietnam in 1972.
"Our objective was to defend the troops when we land in the hot LZ with machine guns," says Hohn.
Shortly after he returned home to the Valley, he noticed something was wrong with his health.
"I started getting rashes on my arm, like this right here," he adds.
He says the VA finally began providing him creams for his skin in 2008. He notes they admitted the rashes were from Agent Orange, a chemical used by the military during the Vietnam War.
Then in 2009, he applied for disability benefits with the VA saying he had symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was denied.
"They said that, yes, I was in Vietnam but they didn't know where I was in Vietnam to regulate if I had PTSD or not," notes Hohn.
He says he applied for a video conference appeals hearing to receive PTSD treatment in 2010 but has not heard back from the VA Board of Veterans.
CHANNEL FIVE NEWS reached out to a Hidalgo County Veteran Service Officer Felix Rodriguez. He tells us Hohn can contact his member of U.S. Congress and ask them to fight to have his hearing scheduled.
Rodriguez adds backlog is a common problem with veterans looking to appeal a VA decision. He says the system became more complicated Monday morning before the government shutdown ended.
He says the Board of Appeals told veterans scheduled on Monday to come in early for a hearing on a first-come, first-serve basis. He says the VA needs to contact any veteran who missed their hearing as a result of the schedule change.
"I hope that they would give them priority ahead of other veterans that already have there's scheduled here, say maybe for next month," notes Rodriguez.
The veterans service officer says this would halt any more possible backlog.
CHANNEL FIVE NEWS reached out to the VA to ask how Hohn can speed up the process of getting his hearing. After repeated attempts to contact the group, we have not received an answer to the question.
Those who want to appeal a VA decision regarding their benefits should move quickly to apply for a hearing.
The VA has a website set up explaining the process to set up a video hearing.
If a veteran feels they were unjustly denied benefits they need, they can visit bva.va.gov. The site has instructions on how to apply for a video hearing with the Board of Veterans Appeals.
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