Rep. Harley Rouda (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)
Rep. Harley Rouda (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)

The Orange County Veterans Service Office (OCVSO) has been severely understaffed during the coronavirus pandemic, with only three out of seven staff positions filled. That has led to long wait times for veterans trying to claim their benefits. 

Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) has teamed up with other legislators to express their concerns, sending a letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors calling the long wait times “unacceptable.” 

“It is our understanding that the OCVSO is currently staffed at below 50 percent…It is our further understanding that, as a result of these staffing shortages, average cases are taking up to three months to receive an appointment with an accredited claims officer,” wrote Rouda and other California legislators.

The OCVSO plays an important role in getting veterans the benefits they need to improve their quality of life, especially in the midst of a global health crisis. It provides veterans, spouses and their dependents with college tuition waivers, burial/death pensions, as well as numerous other financial, health and educational benefits.

Lawmakers also emphasized that a well-run Veterans’ Service Office can also help the broader community.

“An efficient and functional (Veterans’ Service Office) is not only the right thing to do for veterans but also a prudent investment in our communities,” said the representatives. 

Between 2018 and 2019, California’s economy saw over $457 million in veterans’ benefits, according to the California Association of County Veterans Service Officers annual report.  

While thanking the OSVCO for their hard work in making that possible, Rouda asked the office to provide an update on their plan to reduce these increased wait times in benefits claims.