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Veteran Still Traumatized by Terrifying Memories of Navigating VA Benefits System

INDIANAPOLIS — National Guard veteran Katy Hawkins is reportedly still suffering from traumatic memories of attempting to navigate the benefits owed to her by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I came home in 2015, but the disturbing visions of endless paperwork and delayed payments still keep me up at night,” said Hawkins, one of an estimated 550,000 veterans currently living in Indiana. “And I know I’m not alone. So many of the men and women I served with, when we get together, all we can talk about is the nightmares of convoluted forms submitted online that never get responses, or the frightening sound of email notifications from seeing disability or health benefits rejected because we forgot to sign or initial a form. I’m one of the lucky ones, because I can talk about it, but I know on some level I’ll never be the person I was before filing a VA claim.”

Veterans Service Officers, or VSOs, are tasked with helping vets access their benefits, but many say they struggle with under-funding and a lack of responsiveness from VA administrators.

“When I started as a VSO, I was earning less than $30,000 a year, and that salary was after working for the military for two decades,” said Hal Whittington, a VSO and Airforce veteran. “To live on that, I had to bartend at night, and like a lot of vets, I turned to alcohol myself to dull the pain of the administrative red tape I was putting these guys through. When I first joined the VA, I knew the pay was shit and the hours would be hard, but I thought we were going to be making a difference, making the world a little better. Now, after seeing thousands of people I couldn’t help, I wonder if it was actually the right decision to go in in the first place.”

Some prominent conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, suggest that privatizing the VA could make these programs more efficient.

“Right now, the Veterans Administration has a massive, completely bloated budget. It’s plagued by inconsistency and bureaucracy, and yet, it’s not reaching nearly its full potential in enriching the shareholders of private corporations,” said Senator Jerry Moran, the Ranking Member of the Veteran Affairs committee in the US Senate. “If you look at other parts of our defense budget, they manage to inflict substantial damage, rack up huge costs, and still pad the bottom lines of the ultra-wealthy, and there’s just no reason the VA shouldn’t be able to do the same.”

At press time, Moran said that he was proposing legislation that would offer one lucky unhoused veteran shelter for twenty-four hours in observance of Veterans Day.