House Veterans' Affairs Committee Holds VA Disability Claims Roundtable
On Wednesday, with both Democratic and Republican Members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee in attendance, Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA), led a roundtable discussion to address new and unique ways of reducing the claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
"This roundtable is intended to open up the broader thought process of how the VA can best serve our veterans," said Chairman Filner. "Participants were asked to bring all proposals and ideas to the table to reduce the claims backlog. As a group, we were able to identify specific problems with the process that contribute to the backlog and discuss many creative and thoughtful solutions."
Participants in the Disability Claims Roundtable included: The Honorable Daniel L. Cooper and Ronald R. Aument, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Dan Bertoni, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Sidath Panangala, Christine Scott, and Douglas Weimer, Congressional Research Service, Marilyn Park, American Federation of Government Employees, Christine Cote and Margaret Bartley, National Veterans Legal Services Program, Sergeant Todd Bowers, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, Doug LeValley, National Association of County Veterans Service Officers, Doug Vollmer, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Linda Bilmes, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Thomas Reed, University of Widener, Veterans Assistance Program, Rick Weidman, Vietnam Veterans of America, David Sevier, Commission on the Future for America's Veterans, and Brian Lawrence of Disabled American Veterans.
Participants noted the need to retain and recruit employees to the VA and the need to upgrade to an electronic records system for submitting claims. Ideas for reducing the claims backlog included increased training for veterans service organizations, standardized training for the VA's veterans service representatives, giving the veteran the benefit of the doubt during the claims process, guaranteed stipends after a specified wait time, increased outreach among returning veterans and streamlining the disability systems to a four-step rating system.
The Chairman noted legislation to be considered on the House Floor later in the day that tackled some of the problems raised during the roundtable. H.R. 612 would extend the period of eligibility for health care for combat service in current or future hostilities from two years to five years after discharge or release. H.R. 67 improves the outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs to returning servicemembers and current veterans.
"It is clear that the VA has a problem with processing disability claims and we need to take bold action to swiftly compensate and care for any disabilities resulting from military service," said Chairman Filner. "Today's roundtable brought together experts with a range of different experiences to identify the specific issues facing our veterans. This forum is intended to bring about productive problem solving tactics and I am pleased that Members of both parties were able to participate. In the next few months, we will consider bold legislation to radically change the way the VA provides benefits to veterans."