Macon vet wins long battle with VA

wcrenshaw@macon.comNovember 17, 2013 

VAproblems

Charles NeSmith, who is now battling cancer, recently received benefits from the VA that he has spent nearly two years trying to receive.

JASON VORHEES/THE TELEGRAPH — jvorhees@macon.com Buy Photo

Imagine taking a look at your bank account online one day and seeing that someone has mysteriously deposited $58,000.

That’s what happened to Charles NeSmith a couple of months ago. He soon realized the deposit was from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which had not notified him that his long-pending application for benefits had been approved.

The deposit covered retroactive benefits from when he had first applied 21 months earlier. He was declared 100 percent disabled and now gets a monthly check.

“I’m happy that they did come through,” said NeSmith, an Air Force veteran who lives in Macon. “In fact, I’m tickled to death over it.”

NeSmith was part of atomic bomb testing in the 1950s and believes it to be the cause of his kidney cancer. In a story in June, The Telegraph featured NeSmith’s long battle with the VA over his benefits. He was among 30 local vets who responded to an online questionnaire about their experiences applying for benefits, and nearly all were negative.

However, now the VA appears to be making strides in clearing up the backlog.

According to figures from the Center for Investigative Reporting, which brought attention to the issue in the spring, the average time veterans have been waiting nationwide has dropped by nearly four months since March.

In Georgia, the typical delay at the Atlanta VA Regional Office has dropped from 227 days in March to 185 days. However, there are 32,741 veterans currently waiting on a compensation ruling, compared with 31,104 this spring.

Air Force and Navy veteran William Hyslip of Bonaire also responded to The Telegraph’s online survey through the Public Information Network this year. He had been unsuccessfully seeking benefits in connection with an accident he suffered while working on a C-130.

However, several years of his medical records had been lost, and he was having trouble proving his claim. Since the time he was interviewed by The Telegraph in June, his claim has been denied, but he said he is filing an appeal and hopes to eventually locate his missing records.

NeSmith was so stressed by his claims process that at one point he told a VA processer to just flip a coin so that it could be decided one way or the other. He said getting his case resolved has been a big load off his mind, but the VA still needs to do more for those whose claims remain pending.

“It’s like having a new life now that this is settled,” he said. “You can’t imagine how nerve wracking it can be when you are fighting with the government.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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