Illinois congressman files a bill to help disabled veterans

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Reporter - Kathryn DiGisi

HERRIN, Ill. - Millions of service men and women have returned home from war and many of them with serious injuries, both physical and mental.

Our injured troops file disability claims with the VA assuming that the nation will live up to its end of an agreement, to provide for them.

Right now, the average wait time for those disability claims to be processed is nearly nine months. sometimes even longer.

That wait time puts our heroes in a bad financial spot.

One local congressman is hoping to change all this with a new bill.

Like millions of others who selflessly serve, Michael Boren had no doubt he wanted to sign that proverbial dotted line.

He enlisted the day after his 17th birthday.

He went on to have a full military career in both the Army and the Guard that lasted 16 years.

After brain, back and leg injuries in Afghanistan, he filed for disability.

19 months and almost 300 lost documents later, the claims are still not fully processed.

"I'm ashamed. I really am. I volunteered to go to combat. No one forced me," said Boren.

It's for veterans, like Boren, that Congressman Bill Enyart proposed the Veteran's Backlog Reduction Act.

He says the delayed claims have serious effects.

"They're losing their cars, they're losing their homes, their credit cards are getting turned off," said Enyart.

After 16 years of voluntary service to our nation, Boren is doing what he can to make ends meet.

"I've had garage sales to try to make additional money. No one will hire me," said Boren.

The proposed bill would mandate that the VA processes all disability claims in four months.

"If that claim is not decided in 125 days, then the veteran would become entitled to a partial payment, a provisional payment of disability benefits while the claim is being processed," said Enyart.

Boren says the struggle that he and his wife have faced over the last 19 months is hard to put into words.

"If it wasn't for her, I'd fall apart," said Boren.

But he will not stop until he gets what is owed to them.

"Somebody's got to stand up and say something," said Boren.

With Congressman Enyart's help, Boren hopes no more of his military brothers and sisters have to wait for something they sacrificed for.

The bill is still in its beginning stages, and the next step is for it to be assigned a committee.

Enyart says the bill is not a partisan issue, and because of that, the majority of his colleagues are in favor of seeing the Veteran Backlog Reduction Act pass.

 

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