FLORENCE, S.C. – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs distributes approximately $1.4 billion annually to more than 100,000 veterans in South Carolina.
These numbers might seem high, but some veterans still face challenges with getting the care they need.
Leanne Weldon, regional director of benefits for the VA in Columbia, spoke Monday to the Florence Rotary Club on problems many veterans are facing and how they can get help faster.
Weldon, an Iraq War veteran, said she understands how the claims process can become convoluted and frustrating. She said the best thing to do is call and get help.
“Come in and visit us or get a service officer to help you understand the process and where you are in that process,” she said. “Also, file a new or reopen a claim, instead of an appeal. Appeals can take five to eight years, where a new claim takes an average of 112 days.”
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Weldon said veterans coming from tours in recent wars, such as the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, are facing trauma and health issues at higher rates.
“Ultimately we want to treat these veterans, find the causes of what’s happened to them and prevent that from happening to other veterans,” she said. “We’re not an office full of bureaucrats; most of us are veterans also.”
Weldon urged veterans in need to call the VA at 1-800-827-1000, or the Florence County Veterans Affairs office at 843-665-3045.