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A Jacksonville veteran says the VA has had his claim since January, as result, he recently had to pay for his own surgery. Ken Amaro, First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- The Department of Veterans Affairs released information that it has improved its ability to process benefits for hundreds of thousands of veterans. The VA said it is on track to complete 1.3 million claims this year. It sounds impressive, but don't tell that to Remus Nowell.

"When I went into the military I raised my hand and said I give my life to this country," said Nowell," I expected more than what I'm getting (from the VA)."

Nowell served in the Marine Corp 18 years and two months. For the past five years he said he has been in a fight with the South Carolina Regional VA.

"They said they would take care of you," he said ," but that is not my experience."

Nowell said his most recent incident involved outpatient surgery to repair his knee.

"They had connected it (the injury) with my back, which is service connected," he said.

Nowell who now lives in Jacksonville is receiving VA benefits through the South Carolina Regional VA office.

He had knee surgery scheduled for April and returned to South Carolina for the procedure only to be disappointed.

"When we got there they said they did not get authorization from the VA," said Nowell.

The veteran said he was confused and angry because the authorization form was submitted in January. He said he went to the VA to check and was told the form has been one someone's desk since January.

The surgery was at a fee based facility, Medical University of South Carolina, and Nowell told them to bill him for the services; he had traveled too far to rescheduled.

"I said bill me," he said, "because the VA refuse to pay for something that was service connected."

Nowell said this is another example of the problems in the VA system; he said he has no confidence in their effort to improve.

"When you're under fire you will do things better until the fire goes out, then you go back to doing the same old things you did before,' said Nowell.

He said his fight with the VA is far from over, and he will have to wait to see if the system will really improve its level of service to veterans like himself.

We contacted the South Carolina Regional VA office for comment, but have yet to hear from the agency.

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