14,000 veterans in our state are waiting for their benefit claims to be processed. In the midst of cutting down the backlog of claims, some veterans are upset that employees are being given awards.

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Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Columbia VA Regional Office just gave more than 350 employees Special Contribution Awards for their good work, totaling close to $200,000.

14,000 veterans in our state are waiting for their benefit claims to be processed. In the midst of cutting down the backlog of claims, some veterans are upset that employees are being given awards.

"We recently gave special contribution awards to a little more than half of our employees who achieved exceptional levels of quality in their individual quality reviews," said Columbia VA Regional Director Leanne Weldin.

More than 350 employees at the Regional VA office in Columbia received a $400 special contribution award.

Director Weldin says the reviews were done by independent reviewers; not colleagues of the employees.

"It wasn't about how fast you could answer the phone, it wasn't about pushing things through or wait times, it was about high quality service. Every veteran wants us to give high quality service and so to recognize those few employees is important."

The decision is not a popular one with veterans like Fletcher Tucker.

"No bonus should have been given," said Tucker.

Tucker says there are thousands of veterans waiting for their benefits and now is not the time to reward employees.

"Until the situation has been corrected, then its time to talk about bonuses. We've got 14,000 still waiting so no, not at all."

Weldin says 52% of her staff are veterans and their top priority is to improve the quality of veteran care.

"I myself am a veteran, we know what you are going through. We know the pain and the suffering and the hurt, we know the feeling of wanting to be recognized for what you are going through and we want give every veteran the benefits that they are entitled to," said Weldin.

Director Weldin says after the VA Scandal no Directors were eligible this year for special awards.

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