Nearly 1 million American veterans waiting on benefits

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Reporter - Lauren Adams
Photojournalist- Randall Barnes

PADUCAH, KY-  Darrell Poe signed up to enter the Vietnam War when he was just out of high school.

 

"I just felt it was my obligation," he said of entering the war at age 19 and ending up on a Navy aircraft carrier.

Some 40 years later, Poe became sick. He still remembers his heart dropping when the doctor delivered the news.

"They said with the symptoms I got it was agent orange."

Now, he relies on 33 different medications to make it through the day.  He filed to receive  disability benefits from the Veterans Administration.  Recently, he was sent a 36 page denial.  He was told after filing another claim that process would take 13 months. 

"It's terrible we got to fight our country for what we deserve. We fought for our country now we got to fight our country."

Poe is not alone.  Currently, 900,000 veterans are waiting for their disability claims to be processed. The average wait is 273 days.

"It's heartbreaking," American Legion Post 31 Commander Angel White said.

He said it is obvious the VA system needs an overhaul, "We do have success and it's great to see these that do get the help but they're far too few."

The VA has promised an overhaul, transferring all current paperwork into a digital system- calling the backlog a problem "decades in the making."  The system is expected to be ready by 2015. 

That is time Darrell Poe is not sure he has.  He says he wants those benefits, especially for his wife.

"She'd have to sell everything we worked for," he said, becoming emotional at the thought of leaving her without an income or benefits.

It's why Poe is vowing, "I'm gonna fight till the day I die."

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