Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) addressed difficulties faced by veterans while submitting disability claims and discussed his own proposed legislation for mitigating such challenges during a press conference today in Kingston, PA. He was joined by several Northeastern PA veterans who helped him to explain the problems that the VA claims backlog has caused for veterans in the area.
“We must take actions that are worthy of the valor and sacrifice of our veterans. These are commonsense steps that can reduce the claims backlog and help our veterans,” Senator Casey said. “No veteran should have to wait an unnecessary amount of time for their disability claim to be processed. I’m hopeful that we can pass this legislation this year and the VA will implement the recommendations contained in this report.”
The 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, introduced by Casey and fellow Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), proposes three initiatives intended to increase the efficiency of the disability claims process.
First, stronger efforts to educate veterans during the claims submission process and easier access to help throughout the process so that veterans can submit all of the needed information.
Next, increasing the consistency and accountability among the management at each of the VA Regional Offices (VAROs) via audits by the Government Accountability Office. This will ensure that claims are processed quickly at every regional office, and that no single VARO works much more quickly or more slowly than the others.
Finally, other federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Social Security Administration, must make their work with the Department of Veterans Affairs a top priority so as to avoid delay in communication across agencies.
Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), a co-sponsor of the bill, has also proposed his own legislation that would make the withholding of health information from a veteran by a federal employee illegal. The VA Accountability Act, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, would “ban workers in the Department of Veterans Affairs from manipulating or intentionally withholding a veteran’s health information from the affected patient” or from other federal workers.