September 30th, 2012
05:32 PM ET

Hundreds of thousands of war vets still waiting for health benefits

By Randi Kaye and Scott Bronstein, CNN

Phoenix (CNN) - Mike Rioux can't go to the grocery store without making a list, even for a single item.

He can't drive without gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turn white. And he can't stand any longer than 30 minutes because of severe back pain.

This is Rioux's life after Afghanistan, where firefights and a roadside bomb blast left him with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

His ears still ring from the explosions. He suffers from vertigo, headaches, insomnia and nightmares. He has terrible anxiety, evident in an interview with CNN - Rioux could hardly sit still, and his memory loss and inability to concentrate meant questions had to be repeated at times.

"I need to discover who I am again," he said.

As a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, Rioux most recently was deployed in 2010 to one of the most dangerous spots in Afghanistan. There he survived firefights and blasts and witnessed much carnage in Paktia province, near the volatile Afghan-Pakistan border.

After returning home, Rioux faced a much different battle, one that neither he nor his wife, Maggie, expected.

Confusion is 'monumental'

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it is on track to process 1 million disability claims this year.

With the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, the VA is sorting through a backlog of more than 860,000 disability claims from American veterans. More than a quarter of those vets - 228,000 - have been waiting for a year or more.


Filed under: Health • How we live • Veterans
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Bhim

    Government employment is the most sivnitese sector of the economy to political pressure. That is why virtually all the public employees in cities like Atlanta are black.Blacks are drastically overrepresented among federal employees for similar reasons. They get government contracts on the basis of race too.Also, we don't see blacks as the enemy here. By and large, they are not the people who are running the present system, even though America is run for their benefit. Why should black people be blamed for taking advantages of social services?The problem is other White people and I don't even have to say who else.

    October 15, 2012 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. Name*Lance D.

    Pretty damn sad that our "great country" can't even take care of our own soldiers who put their ass on the line for the United States of America! There should be no problems at all keeping them from getting the help they deserve but because of the political B.S. in America that's not happening. What really makes me sick is the federal joke government has no problem sending millions and even billions of dollars overseas to these same countries who's wars we are fighting and of course financing at the same time! Wake up America, we have Americans who need our help first, forget about trying to take everybody else's problems on too. Let these other countries take care of their own for a change and deal with it. Our soldiers need OUR help NOW, give it to them.

    October 3, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |