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March 6, 2014
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Senators tackle veterans' backlog issue

The 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, a comprehensive legislation designed to reduce the backlog of veterans’ disability claims, was released Thursday by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Bob Casey, D-Pa.

The senators — along with Sens. David Vitter, R-La.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; and Jerry Moran, R-Kan. —

also released the VA Backlog Working Group March 2014 Report in which the VA backlog working group analyzes the many factors that contribute to the claims backlog.

“Despite sincere efforts from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Administration, and Democrats and Republicans to address the issue, the veterans’ claims backlog continues to be a very real and very big problem,” Heller said. “The VA must modernize a 1945 process for the 21st century veteran. This legislation aims to provide new, wide-ranging and bipartisan ideas that can be passed immediately in order to relieve the backlog and speed up the claims process.”

Heller said in a rural newspaper conference that the backlog reporting was well done and completed.

“Statistics show the Reno BVA office has the largest backlog in the country,” Heller pointed out.

The Reno VA region covers the entire state.

Heller said his office, as well as other senators’ offices, receive letters from veterans stating how difficult it for them to be seen.

“The veterans are not getting the help they need,” he added.

Casey said the backlog is inexcusable.

“Our nation’s heroes shouldn’t have to wait for months or more for their claims to be addressed” Casey said. “It is unacceptable that some veterans in Pennsylvania have waited a year or longer to get their disability claims processed, such as 345 days in Pittsburgh and 309 days in Philadelphia.” Veterans deserve a comprehensive and permanent solution to this problem, and our hope is that this legislation will ensure we reach that goal.”

The report and legislation were embraced by several Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), including The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). These organizations have provided the Working Group with invaluable input.

Details of the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act:

Whereas the VA Backlog Working Group March 2014 Report identifies problems in current processes, the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act aims to provide a comprehensive solution. The bill is divided into three sections:

Title I: Benefits Claims Submission. This section is designed to encourage, assist, and educate veterans on the benefits of submitting a completed claim, when possible, as well as reinforce the services available to help a veteran complete a claim.

Includes proposals to improve veterans’ access to information about the claims process;

Provides Veterans Service Organizations and veterans’ preferred secondary contact with better access to information;

Authorizes monetary benefits to incentivize developed claims submission.

Title II: Reforming Practices of Regional Offices. Personnel and management must be given tools to perform efficiently. This section requires the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to make structural changes that increase accuracy and efficiency at the regional office level in the following ways:

Calls for audit of regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration;

Ensures improved accountability and oversight of VARO management;

Provides resources to VBA employees and implements changes in process that allows VBA employees to move claims through the electronic benefits awards structure more efficiently;

Improves transparency to the public on the size and scope of the current backlog.

Title III: Government Response. This section holds the government accountable and helps to ensure the claims process is a priority.

Demands greater cooperation from federal agencies to transfer requested information;

Presses VBA employees to process information it receives from these agencies in a timely fashion.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Mar 6, 2014 07:35PM Published Mar 6, 2014 07:35PM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.