By Vicky Jacobsen, Times Staff Writer
TEMPLE TERRACE — Forget about scheduling a doctor’s appointment through the Veterans Affairs system. At this point, Sanford Brookins said, he can’t even get the St. Petersburg Regional Benefit Office to reply to a letter.
Brookins, 53, said an appeals board in Washington, D.C., decided back in March that he was entitled to coverage for some of his medical conditions. More than 100 days later, Brookins has written and even driven to the local office in person and is still waiting for a response.
“My dilemma right now is that they’re not doing anything about it,” said Brookins, a Navy veteran.
His story was a familiar one for many of those who attended a Veterans Intake Day organized by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, at Temple Terrace City Hall on Wednesday. Some came to find people to help them with claims, and some mentioned positive experiences with their doctors and specific VA-run programs. But most were frustrated with a system that often takes months or years to work through.
Brent South of New Tampa said it seems as if veterans need “special powers” to know how to get what they need from their veterans benefits. South said he was severely injured when his helicopter went down in Iraq in 2004, but he remained in the Army and retired after 20 years in 2010. Once he began seeking full compensation for a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, he said, he was told he should have been given a medical retirement because of his injury.