LA CROSSE, Wis. - After a decade of war, veterans are returning to the United States with both seen and unseen battle scars.
While many are more than qualified to receive medical benefits, they're having to wait months, even years, to receive them.
A new report shows an increasing number of veterans are having to wait more than a year for their medical benefits after filing.
The Center for Investigative Reporting says the number waiting has jumped by more than 230,000 veterans since 2009.
Sgt. Nicholous Radloff was deployed with the Marine Corps to Iraq in 2003.
"It's been 10 years now," said Radloff.
But the memories are still sharp in his mind.19401726
"You don't forget the experiences. The smells. The thoughts. The sights. You don't forget that stuff. It never goes away," said Radloff.
But it's not just the memories Radloff carries with him, it's also physical injuries he suffered while deployed.
He filed for medical benefits but it took much longer for the claim to be completed than the VA's self-proclaimed goal of four months, a problem he says is growing.
"The process to submitting your paperwork and seeing your check from the VA has lengthened from the time you got out to now, in my case, almost 13 months, and there's some cases even longer than that. I have some friends still waiting and it's almost been two years," said Radloff.
The VA says the national wait-time average is about nine months. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, it's up to 10 months.
But Wisconsin's average is a little bit shorter, about six months.
"To be honest, right now, it's higher than it was in the past," said La Crosse County Veterans Services Officer Jim Gausmann.
Gausmann says he's seen the number of claims and the wait time increase.
"There's a great deal of frustration," said Gausmann.
While the problem has grown, Gausmann says in his 20 years of experience, it's always been a slow process and he doesn't see it changing any time soon.
"It's always been about six months, and I think that has degraded the last year," said Gausmann. "My personal feeling is it will not get down to a 125-day average. I don't see that ever happening. I don't think they can support that," said Gausmann.
Gausmann says he thinks the reason things are continuing to take longer is in part all the veterans returning from their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He also says there is more done to inform service members of what they are eligible to apply for.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is pressuring the VA to share more records with Congress so that more can be done to help veterans receive the care they need.
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