Tens of thousands of soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming back with a disability known as the silent killer, post traumatic stress disorder. In most cases they have received treatment, but when trying to file a claim for benefits, many veterans are seeing delays.
Louis Flores, 28, of Plainview says ever since he got back from Iraq in 2007 he's been struggling to make ends meet.
"It was getting hard to pay the bills, grocery and monetary needs. My condition effected my employment. I lost a couple jobs," Flores said .
Flores was an army medic specialist. When he got back, he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.
"What really got to me was seeing young children and civilians get hurt," Flores said.
When he sought help, the Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic in Lubbock started treatment. Dr. Michael Lambert, the chief of mental health service, says they start by prescribing medications for PTSD, followed by psychotherapy.
He says fortunately, the Lubbock branch received funding to expand. In fact they have doubled the staff to ensure veterans can get help quickly without any delays in care.
"There are usually less than 12 sessions. They focus on the trauma events - trying to get the person to remember the feelings and deal with them," Lambert said.
Even former soldiers living in rural areas, Lambert says, can seek care through a secure internet connection.
Dr. Lambert says during therapy, veterans can submit a disability claim to the Veterans Benefits Administration. That's when, he says, the doctors do a comprehensive exam.
"We have a mandate to complete those claims within 30 days," Lambert said.
The problem? Once everything is submitted, Flores says, it can take months.
"It was about 6 to 8 months from the time I put my claim in to the time I actually had a decision," Flores said.
Now he's going through an appeal process which, he was told, could take up to a year.
"So that is frustrating," Flores said.
In the meantime, Flores and his family are trying to stay afloat in difficult times.
He has been awarded with a mortgage-free home from Lubbock Homes for Heroes. Flores says once they move in, he can focus on school rather than how to pay for living expenses.
Flores is attending Texas Tech University, majoring in exercise and sports science. In the future he hopes he can help other wounded soldiers.
Congressman Randy Neugebauer issued this statement about the delays:
"Certainly any delay in receiving veterans' benefits should be dealt with quickly so that those with the most need are given the necessary benefits. The federal government has a responsibility to the men and women who make sacrifices while serving our country. The courage military men and women show on a daily basis should never be overlooked because of federal bureaucracy. My office is always available to help veterans, and I encourage veterans having difficulties or delays to contact my staff at (806) 763-1611."
Copyright 2012 KCBD. All rights reserved.