Monique Kelly isn't struggling with just long waits for appointments. She's dealing with another wait within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health System.
"I am suffering so bad and no one won't help us veterans. They delay, deny, and hope that we die," Kelly said.
The Army veteran toured a handful of countries during her 11 years of service. She's been seen at the Baltimore regional Veterans Affairs office for eight years. She's been waiting on insurance claims for about as long.
"I have given them my military records but I've been denied my claims and not given my rightful benefits," she said.
CONTINUING COVERAGE | Veterans Affairs Health System plagued with issues
Kelly has been in and out of doctor's offices, emergency rooms, and surgeries for problems stemming from injuries that she says happened abroad.
"All of these medical injuries that I am suffering from, the V.A. just don't care. It's hard to live with this. It's hard to know that tomorrow is not promised to me," Kelly said.
She's been denied her claims multiple times. ABC2 Investigators got a hold of the denial letters, which state that, "the treatment or services provided were not authorized," and "claim not filed within the required 90 day period."
"This is just circling the wagon constantly over and over and over and not doing anything about us veterans. And it's just on a backlog. And soon enough, eventually we die off. I am hoping that I don't have to die off before this is fixed," she said.
Kelly calls the appeal process a delay mechanism.
The V.A. denied multiple opportunities for an interview. Instead, they provided ABC2 Investigators with numbers that show Kelly isn't alone. Baltimore has the largest average days pending for claims and the second highest percentage of backlog cases in the country. On average, veterans are waiting about seven months to hear back.
"Enough is enough for our veterans dying. Enough for me, who's sick, and have to pay my own medical bills and they depleted my medical insurance," Kelly said.
The V.A. reached out to ABC2 Investigators on Wednesday, saying they would be willing to consider the request in the near future. Director of the Baltimore VA Regional Office Antione Waller, released the following statement:
This Administration has shown unwavering commitment to serve Veterans, their families and survivors. VA completed a record-breaking 1 million claims per year the last four fiscal years. We agree that no Veteran in Maryland should have to wait to receive the benefits he or she earned and deserve. That’s unacceptable, which is why we have implemented a robust plan to automate the process and end the disability claims backlog by the end of 2015. Since April of last year, we have reduced the nationwide backlog in compensation claims 56 percent, a decrease of over 342,000 claims – while increasing the accuracy of claims we process. We still have more work to do but we’ve made strong progress.
The VA also included an update on the numbers, claiming the time Maryland veterans are waiting for a decision has decreased from 459 days in March 2013 to 266 days at the end of last month.