ENGLEWOOD, Fla. —
A SWFL veteran says he’s losing thousands of dollars a month, because of a mistake the VA made.
A WINK News Investigation uncovered the VA “filing system,” was so bad, they don’t even know what they had, or lost.
Charles T Walsh served 4 years in the Marines, 6 years in the National Guard.
“I’d do it all over again,” said Walsh.
Walsh jumped out of helicopters, and worked as a radio field operator for an infantry unit in Okinawa. He says he was exposed to very loud munitions.
But that service, took a toll on Walsh’s body.
Walsh suffers from Tinnitus, which gives him a ringing in his head 24/7.
Bad hips, and knees.
“I can’t walk a hundred yards because of my hips and knees without having pain,” said Walsh.
His condition is getting worse, and he has the doctor’s notes to prove it.
So he asked the VA for 100% disability coverage, up from 90%, which would give him an extra $1200 a month.
Walsh says to be blunt, he could use it.
Walsh went to the Disabled American Veterans National Service Office in St. Petersburg.
With the help of a service officer, he filled out 19 pages of paperwork.
Walsh then watched that officer go into the VA office next door, and hand in his claim.
That was on April 28th.
“I want to be recognized for the disabilities I am suffering,” said Walsh.
Walsh realized he had a problem in July, when he got a letter from the VA that said he was missing this form.
VA form 21-8940, the application for increased compensation, the one he filled out in April.
The VA told him they couldn’t do anything, until they had that form.
Walsh knew he had filled that form out.
So he called the national VA hotline.
He says they told him quote — “that form is there, it’s fully there.”
But in August, Walsh got this letter, saying his claim was denied, because of the missing form.
“At that point, I was furious.
Walsh again called the VA hotline, and says another operator told him, that they had the form the whole time.
He says the operator told him,”It’s been submitted, this is an error on behalf of the VA and you’ll get a response within 10 days. It never happened.”.
WINK News uncovered Walsh isn’t the only one having problems with the St. Petersburg VA Office.
According to this inspector general’s report, done in March, workers at the St. Petersburg’s office, said there was a long history of lost and misfiled records, because the file room was overfilled.
In the mail room, there was a 3 week delay in sorting and processing, because documents weren’t always time stamped.
The delay could result in claims being improperly denied.
So why did Walsh get two different stories?
Even the VA’s answers to us don’t make sense.
They told us at one point they reopened Walsh’s claim because they actually had his application form, dated April 10th.
But remember April 10th is eighteen days before Walsh submitted his original paperwork.
So we asked the VA to explain that mistake one more time.
They finally told us just this week, the form they told Walsh was missing at least four different times, was actually in their office the whole time, and was “overlooked in error.”
But then, after all that, five days ago the VA called Walsh and denied his claim again.
They said he has one year to resubmit the evidence overlooked before.
“The VA has no accountability,” according to Wade Bosley of Lehigh Acres.
He’s a lawyer who represents veterans who have been denied disability claims nationwide.
“We see the paperwork gets delayed because it gets stuck in the wrong cubby hole, it gets to the wrong team, they misread the veterans name,” said Bosley.
As for Charles Walsh, he’s not interested in apologies, or excuses, he just wants answers.
And he never gives up.
“I won’t quit, ever, never, Marine Corp installation,” said Walsh.
We also asked the VA why national operators told walsh they had the paperwork, but St. Petersburg officers didn’t see it even though we were told they look at the same online system.
The VA said there was no way to know what went wrong there.
As for the filing mess, the VA says they hired some workers to get organized.
We confirmed the Inspector General closed the case.