American Legion Convention Attracts Unhappy Veterans and President Obama

Annual Gathering Gives Veterans the Rare Opportunity to Air Grievances with VA

Thousands of Veterans who’ve grown weary waiting for their disability claims to be adjudicated came to the American Legion’s National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina this week looking for results.

And some left surprisingly satisfied.

Tracey Cousin, a Veteran who drove to Charlotte from his home in Atlanta, has been waiting more than a year on his claim. He said he and many other Veterans were given a rare opportunity at the convention to speak to a VA representative in Charlotte directly about their open claims.

WSOC TV reports that veterans simply had to show up at the Charlotte Convention Center to have a one-on-one conversation with someone at VA who was actually there to listen, and help.

“I got in the car and drove up here,” Cousin told the TV station. “It was really worth it because I feel so much better the way they are handling the claims now.”

Since June, the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, has been setting up these crisis centers for Veterans and their families in such places as Charlotte, Phoenix, Fayetteville, N.C., El Paso, Texas., and Fort Collins, Colorado, where the Legion sent a team of experts to man a crisis center and hold a town hall meeting.

Verna Jones, director of Veterans Affairs for the Legion, told Time Warner Cable News that many Veterans are “waiting years and years to get their benefits. And some of them are getting denied and they appeal. That’s another few years.”

Joe Rapley, a Veteran Service Officer from North Carolina, told WSOC TV that the Legion’s crisis center program is “very unique. It’s not often that a veteran has a chance to speak with someone from the VA right across from them.”

Rapley said that at these crisis centers, Veterans who file a new claim can usually drop an 18-month wait to eight months, and those who already have a claim in the system can get almost immediate answers to their questions.

This week, around $130,000 in claims were issued to Charlotte-area Veterans alone, Rapley told WSOC.

President Barack Obama and new VA Secretary Robert McDonald also attended the convention this week in Charlotte to address the ongoing VA scandal.

“What we’ve come to learn is that the misconduct we’ve seen at too many facilities — with long wait times, and veterans not receiving care, and folks cooking the books — is outrageous and inexcusable,” Obama said in a speech during the convention.

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