Central Texas veteran says he’s been 'fighting' the VA for two decades

Damon Webb has some words for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

"If you find me a veteran today that will say the VA is taking care of them, I'll be mind-blown," said Webb. "And then I want to check their accounts to see if the VA is paying them off."

Webb spent over a decade serving in the Marine Corps before doing contract work overseas for about 15 years off and on.

"I did a little bit with the VA when I would come home, fight (them) a little bit, leave, go back overseas, fight a little bit, leave, go back overseas," said Webb. "In 2018, I came home for good, and that began my real battle with the VA."

Webb said he’s had issues with everything from the Community Care program, to delays in financial reimbursement, to delays in medical care.

"I've already had surgeries on both knees, and now they're saying my hips are messed up because I went so long on my knees being messed up," he said.

The physical complications from his time overseas added up over the years. As of 2023, Webb said he has had 15 surgeries. 

For years, he's been trying to qualify for 100% disability. He believes injuries are downplayed, and the process has been made complicated on purpose. 

Damon Webb, a Central Texas veteran, said he has been "fighting" with the VA for two decades. Photo courtesy: Damon Webb

"You got 12 months to appeal the decision they made, and then they say, ‘Show us new evidence,’" said Webb. "Well, new evidence is me having another knee surgery, me having another shoulder surgery that proves there's new evidence to my problem, so then it takes them a year to get me back up there again to see a judge. I actually waited two years to get in front of a judge. That's how far behind they are."

For disability claims, according to the VA, if an appeal is eligible for review it will be assigned to a Veterans Law Judge.

Appeals can involve multiple issues and claims files can have thousands of pages of evidence to go through.

In 2017, Congress passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA), changing the appeal process in an attempt to expedite it.

According to data shared online, the Board of Veterans' Appeals is now resolving about 100,000 appeals each year, leaving approximately 200,000 appeals still unresolved. 

Of that 200,000, approximately 70,000 are "legacy appeals," pre-2019, waiting to be resolved. 

"The Board understands that many Veterans and appellants have been waiting a long time for a decision. We acknowledge that this wait can be very frustrating," the BVA notes online. "It’s important to keep in mind there are only so many Veterans Law Judges at the Board and judges are the only ones who can both hold hearings and decide cases." 

The Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System alone serves more than 250,000 veterans.

Meanwhile, when FOX 7 first talked to Webb in January, he was still waiting for a judge’s decision on a hearing that took place in December 2021 related to his disability claim.

In March, he learned he had finally qualified for 100% disability. It’s a small victory in what he sees as an ongoing war. 

"We're so tired of fighting," said Webb. "We're just tired of fighting for something that we deserve."