Veterans

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This is the last of four reports this week about the National Guard.

It was December 2007 and Darryl Davidson was driving down a busy San Antonio street when something flew off the truck in front of him. He thinks it might have been a car battery, but he still isn't sure.

Eileen Pace

SAN ANTONIO — H.W. “Bill” Sparks never had trouble scheduling his annual physical at a Veterans Affairs clinic in El Paso until his doctor left early this year. Now he’s been left in limbo, waiting several months to be paired with a new physician.

Sparks, a retired Army warrant officer, said the clinic has tried to reduce wait times since an audit last summer revealed it had one of the nation’s worst backlogs. Yet it still struggles to attract staff and build enough capacity to treat a large veteran population. “They don’t have enough staff to do it,” he said. “So why promise something you can’t deliver?”

Eileen Pace

An Associated Press analysis has determined that Texas veterans spend more time waiting for medical care than the national average.

From September through February, 3.4 percent of appointments at the state’s 54 VA facilities were not within 30 days — the health system’s stated goal after a scandal last summer over lengthy wait times.

The national average during this span was 2.8 percent.

Eileen Pace

AUSTIN — They signed up to fight for their country, and the state of Texas promised to pay for their education.

For decades, veterans went to public universities and colleges under the Hazlewood Exemption, which kicks in after federal benefits under the G.I. Bill are exhausted. But the price tag has increased sevenfold since 2009, when legislators in Texas — which has the country’s second-highest veteran population, 1.7 million — allowed the benefit to be passed on to veterans’ children under a legacy provision.

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