Tag Archives: VA

Legislation to speed benefits for vets

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Congressmember Grace Meng has introduced legislation to eliminate the massive backlog of disability claims that forces veterans in Queens to wait an average of nearly 500 days for their benefits, one of the longest wait times in the entire country.

“Forcing disabled veterans to wait such long periods of time to receive the vital benefits they require is disgraceful and unconscionable,” said Meng. “Our veterans and returning troops who valiantly served our country must not continue be subjected to these shameful and inexcusable delays. They deserve better. That’s why I’ve introduced this critical legislation to help fix the problem. We can never thank our veterans enough for the sacrifices they made to our nation, and now we must do all we can to help them receive the benefits they rightly deserve.”

More than 878,000 veterans have disability claims waiting to be processed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at present. Nearly 593,000 of them have gone past the department’s processing goal of 125 days.

Nationwide, the average time for the VA to process claims is 310 days. However, in Queens, the average wait time is 499 days, according to Meng.

Further, nearly 14 percent of the claims processed by the VA’s New York City office contain errors. That is significantly higher than the VA’s target error rate of two percent.
Disability benefits include critical care for everything from major combat injuries to post-traumatic stress disorder to Agent Orange exposure.

Meng’s legislation, entitled the VA Regional Office Accountability Act, would require annual reports on VA regional offices that fail to meet the VA’s target of processing claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy.

The reports are intended to speed up benefits by allowing Congress and the VA to better understand the challenges that prevent regional offices from reaching their goals. The reports would also propose solutions on how to rectify the problem.

They would be required to explain why the office did not meet the goal, what resources it needs to meet it and how the failure affected the performance evaluation of the office director.

The VA office in downtown Manhattan is one of 58 regional VA offices across the country that provide benefits and services to veterans and their dependents. The New York facility serves about 608,000 veterans throughout Queens and New York City, Long Island and the rest of the state.

The backlog in claims has been attributed to several factors. These include an increase in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, extending additional benefits to Vietnam-era veterans, a lack of adequate staffing and an antiquated claim system that is not computerized.



Benefits for veterans

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The U.S. Department  of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a wide range of benefits to our Nations Veterans and their families. In order to receive VA benefits certain criteria must be met. A veteran must have been honorably discharged and had at least one day of active service.

  • Burial in a National Cemetery- Veterans, their spouses, and dependant children are eligible for burial in a national cemetery at no cost to the family. This includes a marker for the grave and a concrete grave liner for the casket. Please note if a veteran is not buried in a national cemetery, the veteran’s family could be eligible for a plot allowance reimbursement of up to $300 dollars. Please contact the VA when applying for this benefit.
  • Reimbursement of Burial Expenses- A burial allowance may be paid to help offset expenses of the veteran’s funeral and burial. The allowance is payable to someone who died with a service connected disability, were in receipt of compensation, or received a pension/ retired pay. The family of a deceased veteran may also receive partial reimbursement if they died in a VA facility. Please note the family must apply for this benefit with the VA to be reimbursed.  The forms required are: 1. 21-530, Application for burial allowance; 2. DD214- Military proof of service form; 3. One certified copy of a death certificate; and 4. Copies of funeral/burial bills.
  • Headstone or Marker– The VA provides a headstone or marker for veterans buried in any cemetery worldwide.
  • Flag- An American Flag is provided to drape the casket or accompany the urn of an eligible veteran. The flag is presented to the veteran’s next of kin upon burial.
  • Presidential Memorial Certificates- Family and other loved ones may request these personalized certificates. You or your funeral director must obtain VA Form 40-0247 to apply for these certificates.
  • Military Forces Honor Guard- New York State in July of 1999 established a program where honorable discharged veterans are eligible for Funeral Honors. This is of no cost to families and funeral directors. If desired please inform your funeral director at the time of arrangements.

The above information is a brief description of Veterans benefits. The VA has a wide range of additional information. You can contact them at 800-827-1000 or go to their website www.va.gov  for further questions. Walker Funeral Home has the applications, pamphlets and other forms available if you need to apply for any of the above benefits. We can also assist you if you have any further questions.

Walker Funeral Home




Body of missing escort Shannan Gilbert likely found in Oak Beach, L.I. one year after disappearance

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Body of missing escort Shannan Gilbert likely found in Oak Beach, L.I. one year after disappearance
A year after the search for Shannan Gilbert led to the discovery of 10 bodies at Gilgo Beach, L.I., the missing escort’s corpse was found a few miles away, police said Tuesday. Gilbert’s purse, including her ID and cell phone, and her jeans and shoes were found in marshland last week, and police expanded their efforts to find her body. Skeletal remains were found at the Oak Beach site, and police said they believe they belong to Gilbert but have not confirmed it through forensics. Read More: Daily News


Seaburn Bookstore, Astoria’s only independent bookseller, to close this month 

The only independent book store in Astoria selling mainstream titles is slated to close its doors for good this month. Seaburn Bookstore has been losing money for years and its owner tried to shutter the shop last year. But an outpouring of community support at the time — and a jump in sales — prompted the owner, Sam Chekwas, to keep the beloved store open. He even remodelled and added an Internet cafe to appeal to new customers. Read More: Daily News


Disabled Flushing resident says the Veterans Administration botched his wheelchair

Matthew Raible, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran, said he waited nine months for the Veterans Administration to give him a proper wheelchair that he desperately needed for his everyday life. And less than a week after it arrived, both wheels fell off, he said. This is one of many complaints that Raible, a quadriplegic, has with the VA, which is responsible for providing his wheelchairs and other health care services. Read More: Daily News


Teacher has students do ‘God’s’ work

A Queens high school teacher got students to unwittingly do volunteer work for a controversial religious charity run by the son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham that has been accused of mixing its celebrated aid to the poor with proselytizing. Students in John Bowne HS said their math teacher, Mr. Joseph, asked them in class last month if they would bring in shoe boxes filled with toys, clothes and teddy bears for the Samaritan’s Purse annual Operation Christmas Child program. Read More: New York Post