Horry County Veterans tired of waiting in long lines

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) The Horry County Veterans Affairs Office said they need money to keep up with an increased demand for help.

They say budget cuts at the county level have put the Veterans Affairs Office in a position where Veterans are often forced to deal with hours long waits.

Vietnam Veteran Randolph Wiggins said he spent nearly five hours at the VA Office on Monday, but after previous experiences dealing with VA's, he is used to it.

"I fought for over two years to get my [disability] benefits," Wiggins said.  "It was a long drawn out thing, it's nothing you can accomplish overnight."

World War II veteran Procter Farmer said he also waited for hours to file a claim on Monday, and said the wait times should be expected considering the more than 26,000 veterans residing in Horry County.

"By the time you get 40 people in here, and [the boss] only [has] two girls helping him, it takes quite a bit of time," Farmer said.

Horry County Veterans Affairs Officer Wendell Allen said a rapidly growing veteran population and poor economic times have had a significant impact on the Horry County VA's ability to serve clients.

"The budget cuts and the sheer number of veterans we have in Horry County, that's caused the problem," Allen said.

Allen said three workers were tasked with trying to assist more than fifty veterans file claims on Monday, and when asked, he said the workload has begun to wear on his staff.

"[We deal with] fatigue and frustration, because we don't want a world war two veteran to sit out there and wait four and a half hours," Allen said.

According to Horry County VA Records, officers have assisted more than 2,500 veterans file claims since the beginning of 2012.

Allen said federal government compensation for military veterans in Horry County increased more than 8 million dollars in 2011 due to the rapid growth of the veteran population, and he expects it to increase by 12 million in 2012.

To cut down on long lines at the Horry County VA Office, Allen said he would need more funding to hire two additional full time staff members, which he said would cost the county somewhere between 60 and 70 thousand dollars a year.

The Horry County Council will consider the county VA's budget needs during a special budget retreat on April 26th and 27th.

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