Legislation Introduced to Help Reduce Veterans Disability Claims Backlog

By on June 18, 2013 in Current Events with 8 Comments

U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) have introduced the Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act, a cost-neutral, bipartisan bill to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. The bill would require the Veterans Benefits Administration, an agency under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to provide veterans with accurate information for faster filing options.

Specifically, the bill would require the VA to track and post the average turnaround time for veterans when they are filing their claims. Filing claims online through the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program, instead of filing a paper claim, accelerates turnaround times and makes processing more efficient. The bill would require the VA to inform veterans that under current law, when they file a FDC, they are eligible to receive up to an extra year of benefits.

“It has taken years for the veterans’ claims backlog to reach critical levels, but as 10,000 Nevadans are waiting for their claims, we clearly do not have years to fix it. While there is no single bill that will magically reduce the backlog, it is legislation like this that takes another positive step forward. Providing accurate information to veterans at the point they submit a claim will save time for both the veteran and the Veterans Administration, and ultimately help the VA adjudicate the claim efficiently. I appreciate the opportunity to work with Senator Heinrich on this issue, and will continue to focus on ending the VA backlog,” said Senator Dean Heller.

“Too many veterans are waiting far too long to receive the benefits they have earned,” said SenatorMartin Heinrich. “This commonsense approach will help accelerate the claims process while reducing the number of backlog claims. We have an obligation to keep America’s promise to our veterans by providing them, without delay, the best care and benefits our country has to offer. Answering the call of duty runs deep throughout New Mexico’s history, and I will continue to fight for our veterans just as they have heroically fought for us.”

Claims pending for more than 125 days are characterized as “backlog.” The VA’s goal is to eliminate the backlog of compensation claims by the end of 2015. This bill would help achieve that goal.

The Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act is endorsed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). “IAVA is proud to offer our support for Senators Heinrich and Heller’s Faster Filing Act,” said Tom Tarantino, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Chief Policy Officer. “This legislation would shorten the time that veterans must wait for their claims to be decided. Providing veterans with concrete information about quicker filing options will encourage veterans to initiate the claims process by crafting fully developed claims online. Providing critical information to veterans regarding the claims process helps ensure that VA is a veteran’s strongest advocate, not a veteran’s biggest obstacle.”

The Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act closely corresponds with the Fully Developed Claims Community of Practice initiative, a program announced by the VA on May 21, 2013 to end the backlog by 2015 and process claims within 125 days at 98 percent accuracy. The VA can process FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed paper claim.

Currently, 82 percent of VA disability claims are still on paper. The bill helps ensure a veteran’s claim never reaches the backlog.  Currently, the average number of days it takes to process disability claims nationally is 330 days, and in New Mexico the average is 271 days.

The legislation is a companion bill to H.R. 1809 introduced by U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX-16).

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  1. Retired DOD/NPS employee says:

    I believe claims should be prioritized beginning with vets who sustained injuries on the field of ACTUAL combat vs. sustaining injuries in a reasonably secure area such as an air base, ship or base camp (there is a difference). Second, fund the VA so that it can hire the manpower required to process claims. I am sure there are many vets and unemployed Americans that will fill the created job vacancies. The VA can create career training and upward mobility programs providing opportunity for its workforce. This cost would be less than outsourcing in spite of what our manipulated media feeds us but best of all the funding would go where it is needed back to the American worker in the form of employment vs. paying an insensitive corporation. Third, if it is not in place, incorporate veteran feedback as a critical element of the VA managers annual performance review. Fourth, when Congress gives the VA or any Federal agency and additional workload, they should fund it.

    Yes, we vets may be waiting far too long for our benefits. But we cannot deny that we are better off than at any other time in history, even receiving care for non-related combat injuries. Although not perfect, the VA has accomplished a significant and wonderful turnaround when compared to the care and attitude of the late 60’s and 70’s. Vets are now treated with dignity and sincerity. We will never have the perfect department but the VA is giving it one hell of an effort as based on care given to me from facilities in Roseburg, OR and Prescott, AZ. They are the total opposite of what the Los Angeles VA was in the late 60’s. Give them credit and encouragement and it will, in turn, affect us. Stop griping and start caring, show your concern by thanking, supporting, and volunteering at our VA’s.

  2. eyecurdum says:

    This is like the sexual assault issue with the Military. How many times are they going to pass legislation to fix a problem only to have the same continuing problem that never gets fixed. Maybe it would help if there wasn’t so much govt intervention and useless mandates/legistlation that does nothing but complicate issues.

  3. HRManager says:

    This will not help – especially when it adds to the workload of VA employees. If Congress is really interested in lowering the processing time maybe it should sponsor an independent 3rd party review to evaluate the system and make meaningful and useful improvement suggestions. Included in their review should be an evaluation of how some of this disabilities are granted. In my time in the HR business I saw many, many, many individuals who had been granted disability eligibility for some of the strangest reasons and circumstances. I never did figure out how a retiree got 10% compensable disability for doing office work during his time in the Air Force. The 3rd party review should also look at how to deal quickly with questionable claims as these just add unnecessary workload and are part of the reason why, if a recent VA report is correct, the VA is currently faced with almost 900,000 claims.

  4. FederalEmployee says:

    I agree with “somebody”. I worked with a vet who received checks for injuries playing basketball off hours and have known others who receive substantial checks for 70-80% “disability” who continue to work full time government jobs and enjoy a fully “enabled” life well above their actual “means”. Disability should be determined by a panel of independent physicians, not the Military. Existing “disabled” collecting 2000-3000K for life from our Federal Treasury should be re evaluated by an independent panel to assure they are actually disabled. Private sector could handle these evaluations more efficiently than the “backlog” that is occurring now. From observation disabled does not mean loss of a limb, sight, inability to walk, or inability to work in your profession. Some military disabled would not even qualify under social security disability. Why not let that process evaluate the military backlog? Then we would not see the draining of our federal treasury for things tat can be something related to the normal aging process like degenerative disc disease or rotator cuff tears. There are those who really need this help- the unfortunate victims of road side bombs etc, who are legitimately DISABLED and need the money and rehab. We should be prioritizing these claims and offering the evaluation to the private sector for objective medical opinion.

  5. Somebody says:

    Maybe they should eliminate eligibility for all the non-duty injuries and disabilities such as accidents at home or on leave, illness and surgeries not associated to any work related exposure and psychiatric conditions not related to work such as depression because you happen to get divorced while in service.

  6. Retired from VA says:

    This is pure nonsense! I do not see how this will reduce the backlog. Congress needs to legislate to simplify the process. There are too many steps and requirements imposed by legislation, regulations ans VA manuals. There could be substantial manpower savings by closing the appeals process at the time of receipt of a formal appeal. The appeal should be decided on the evidence of record. This would reduce remanded appeals, cut extesive development and save manpower resources to be utilized in the initial claims decisions.

  7. mandinka says:

    No bonuses, promotions, relocations or tuition assistance for any VA employee until the back log is eliminated. The funds from these freezes can be used to hire contractors to fix the problem

  8. Soonershooter says:

    Bleh, I ‘ve heard this crap for years, it never changes. VA will get to your package being awarded when they damn well please…