Happy Memorial Day - Reducing VA claims backlog
E-NEWSLETTER ~ May 27, 2013
Happy Memorial Day.
As we celebrate this year’s commemoration of our nation’s war dead, more and more of our brave young men and women are returning home from the war in Afghanistan, or have already left the service after serving in Iraq. Now more than ever, it is essential that veterans get the benefits and services they’ve earned in our nation’s service.
Those needs have only increased in recent years since the Veterans Administration did the right and honorable thing by expanding coverage for Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange– shockingly uncovered until now– and eased standards for coverage of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s caused an extraordinary application backlog at the VA, despite the launch of an automated claims system that cost hundreds of millions to create. The average wait time for disability claims nationwide is almost a year. For first-time claimants, and in cities like New York, the wait can be far longer. The VA asserts it is making progress and can eliminate the backlog by 2015, but recently Veterans Administration Secretary Shinsecki has ordered mandatory overtime among VA caseworkers to reduce the backlog more quickly.
Meanwhile I have co-sponsored a package of bills (outlined below), that would, if passed, have a dramatic impact in the short term and help prevent a similar backlog in the future. (It’s not lack of funding that’s causing the problem. The VA budget increased by almost $15 billion in the last three years and this year President Obama has requested another $12 billion increase. These funds have gone to increased mental health facilities, living assistance, and economic opportunities for our nation’s veterans.)
Superstorm Sandy dealt a crushing blow to the 23rd St. VA Hospital. But with the help of $207 million in federal Sandy recovery aid, that facility has reopened outpatient services, the Urgent Care Center, in-patient services, and the emergency department.
I’ve always worked to address veterans’ concerns in the House of Representatives not least because I am the daughter, widow, and sister of veterans. My father served in World War II, my brother in Vietnam, and my husband in the Navy. It’s in my blood, and I honor the millions across the country-- and hundreds of thousands in our home state of New York– for their service.
Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress
VETERANS BACKLOG LEGISLATION
Congress must bolster the VA’s efforts to modernize in order to get veterans’ claims and compensation settled faster. That’s why I’ve co-sponsored the following legislation:
-- VA Claims, Operations and Records Efficiency Act (HR 1729) Requires DoD to provide certified, complete, and electronic records to the VA within 21 days.
-- Expedite claims processing for users(HR 1809) Provides veterans with information regarding VA’s timeliness for adjudicating claims in different formats such as paper application or online.
-- Veterans Claims Efficiency Through Automation Act (HR 1805)Requires an annual report listing which medical conditions are processed electronically, the feasibility/consideration for adding additional conditions, and listing barriers barring the VA from adding those medical conditions that are not automated.
-- Disabled Veterans Red Tape Reduction Act (H.R. 1521) Extends the VA’s authority to contract for disability examinations without which medical examinations would overwhelm the VA healthcare system.
-- Veterans Claims Efficiency Through Information Act (HR 1623) Requires the VA to post online the data on timeliness and accuracy of claims handling at VA regional offices. Public reporting of data would provide the public, the VA, and policymakers with clarity on the backlog and the trouble spots.
-- VA Regional Office Accountability Act (HR 1824) Requires annual reports on VA regional offices that fail to meet backlog reduction goals.
-- Require status reports on requests from other federal agencies (HR 1759) Would require the VA to provide quarterly updates to Congress regarding the timeliness of other agencies in fulfilling their information requests; veteran’s claims are often delayed because other agencies are slow to provide information. By having more definitive data, VA and Congress can work to reduce these bottlenecks.