Casey Unveils New Veterans Bill

Sen. Casey
Sen. Casey

Senator Bob Casey announced today a new bill that would help to expedite the process of veterans filing claims for disability purposes through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

With the support and help of Republican Senators Dean Heller (NV) and David Vitters (LA), and Democratic Senators Jon Tester (MT) and Martin Heinrich (NM), Casey will unveil both the proposed legislation as well as a report chronicling a history of the problems that have plagued the VA’s claims process.

The bill, which is backed by a bipartisan coalition of Senators, is expected to receive support from both Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate.

The claims process is oftentimes a long and complicated ordeal for veterans. The process begins with a veteran filing of a claim, then that claim going under a review process. That review process involves the gathering of necessary evidence, then a review of that evidence, and finally a pending decision is reached. Once the decision is finalized, the claimant is informed of the results.

It is this arduous process that Senator Casey believes needs be reformed and streamlined in order to make the claims process more efficient and easy. As it stands, the long wait for decisions and the complications in reporting a claim has alienated many veterans from the process altogether.

The backlog of claims is constantly growing, and that fact is extremely noticeable in Pennsylvania. The waiting time for claims filed in Pittsburgh has reached up to 345 days, and the same trend is true of Philadelphia where the wait can be up to 309 days.

“Without changes, the VA will continue to experience difficulty ensuring the claims process is accurate, efficient, and delivers for our Veterans when a surge of claims occurs,” the VA Claims Backlog Working Group’s March 2014 Report said.

The proposed bill mirrors the results and suggestions found in the report.

The VA’s “Strategic Plan to Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog” includes suggestions for improvements in three main areas: people, process, and technology. Three themes are at the heart of the bill’s proposed legislation.

The first section of the bill, entitled “Benefits Claims Submission,” establishes a protocol to properly educate and inform all veterans on the proper way to file a benefits claim. This includes establishing what is needed to file a claim and what the process is like. Moreover, “monetary incentives” will be put in place for those who have fully completed their claims.

In addition, establishment of an ongoing dialogue with all veterans once they have submitted a claim is required. This is the responsibility of Department of Veterans Affairs

Section two, “Practices of the Regional Offices,” includes provisions that state that the Government Accountability Office is responsible for analyzing the VA’s 56 regional offices in order to establish which offices are underperforming and experiencing backlogs, and why such backlogs are taking place. Specifically, factors such as management practices at the office will be called into question. After a thorough investigation, the GOA will be responsible for identifying possible solutions to the problems that plague the claims services.

The VA will then be responsible for establishing uniformity amongst the 56 regional offices in regards to the “mail processing and scanning systems.” This is intended to establish accuracy and precision in the processing of claims throughout all of the VAROs.

Transparency will also be tackled under the proposed bill. The Veterans Benefits Administration will be responsible for calculating the number of open claims and the “expected average output over the course of the year.” With this, the VA will be able to establish if more full-time employees are needed to process the claims in a timely and efficient manner. There will also be public access to reports entitled “Appeals Pending” and “Appeals Work By Station.”

Finally, the bill’s final section, “Government Response,” will establish federal government liaisons in the Department of Defense, the Social Security Agency, and the National Archives and Records Administration in order to expedite the process of record acquisition for claims. A 30 day maximum turnaround for document requests will be established.

Sen. Casey has been a strong advocate for the rights of military personnel and veterans during his time in office. Last year Casey supported the continuation of TRICARE Prime healthcare plans for veterans who were to see their plans change, and he also came together with Sen. Pat Toomey on the “No Man Left Behind” bill last month.


4 Responses

  1. More Blah Blah Blah from these no count politicians. My VA case took over 10 years to get resolved and I had to do it myself. The VSO’s and many of these Vet organizations like the American legion sit around all day passing the buck. If these federal employees would all get up off theirs overweight A** and do their job the backlog would be greatly reduced. This is true of any government employee.

  2. My injury occurred in 1973 while in the USAF. When I was discharged I was not given any medical records. Just a 256 & and a 214.
    40 years later no medical records can be found by the VA . The VA insist it is my responsibility to produce documentation. How the frack do I do what the VA cannot ?

  3. This will do nothing at all to fix anything that is wrong with VA claims. Congress is determined to keep the obsoleted regulatory process in place no matter what, and that is the very thing that needs changing. Nothing here will effect or assist the outcome of my 40 year backlogged and unresolved VA disability case and that’s a fact. Change the dam PROCESS I say. Eliminate case citations and eliminate ISSUES section in the ruling papers. This is found in the VA Raters M21 Adjudication Manual. End of story. Without that, you are just blowing smoke in our faces and wasting our time. — Sue Frasier, Army 1970, national veterans activist.

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