Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-01) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) have introduced legislation that would establish an independent task force or commission to analyze VA’s disability benefits claims processing system. The task force would be charged with examining the root causes of VA’s backlog and providing solutions for ending it by 2015.
After decades of mismanagement, VA is buried under a mountain of backlogged disability benefits compensation claims. Nearly 900,000 veterans are waiting for a claims decision — a process that takes nine months on average, but in some cases takes years. VA leaders have repeatedly pledged to end the backlog by 2015, but many in the veterans community are skeptical the department is on track to meet that goal.
Under the bill, the task force would provide recommendations for improving VA’s claims processing operations within 60 days of its first meeting and continually help the department refine its claims processing efforts until VA’s backlog is eliminated.
Task force members would be appointed by members of Congress and the Obama administration and would include a delegate from VA. The bill would also require task force members to solicit input from representatives from the veterans service organization community and private-sector leaders in fields such as claims processing, logistics, electronic records and product tracking.
“Government bureaucrats under both Republican and Democrat administrations created the backlog, so it’s only natural to solicit outside help from the private sector and the VSO community in working toward a solution. By creating a task force of private industry leaders, VA and VSO officials, we hope to establish a revised evidenced-based process that will help VA break its claims backlog once and for all in 2015, just as department leaders have promised.” Miller said.
“The entire country is counting on VA to end the backlog by 2015, and Congress is committed to holding the department accountable until they achieve that goal. Our veterans deserve the care they earned while protecting and defending our country, and continued failure by the VA cannot and will not be tolerated.” McCarthy said.
“As Memorial Day approaches, it’s clear that there is no roadmap from the White House to bring the VA backlog to zero. Veterans need a comprehensive, inter-agency approach to solve the disgraceful backlog. IAVA strongly supports Chairman Miller’s bill to proactively establish just such a coordinated effort to get the VA the help it needs on the backlog and to bring outside players to the table to assist in that effort. The enormous success of the roundtable with private industry experts convened by the Chairman last week is an example how the VA can greatly benefit from an expansion of this approach,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.