VA AND DoD PROGRAM TO SPEED BENEFITS TO RECENT WOUNDED WARRIORS
Pilot program in step with Donnelly legislation to expedite benefits to veterans
Washington, D.C. -Today the VA and Department of Defense announced that they began a pilot program this week to improve the process by which disabled service members are assigned and receive VA benefits.
Currently, the Department of Defense (DoD) assigns injured service members a disability rating which determines their fitness for duty. Upon separation from service, veterans have to then file for a disability claim and receive another rating from the VA before they can receive disability compensation.
Under the new one-year pilot program, injured service members at four Washington, D.C.-area military and VA facilities will go through a unified evaluation process in which the VA assigns a disability rating prior to separation so that recently disabled veterans can receive their benefits the day they leave service.
Creating a unified disability evaluation process was a key recommendation of both the Dole-Shalala Commission and the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission reports released this year.
On November 15th, Congressman Donnelly, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan introduced H.R. 4219, The Immediate Benefits for Wounded Warriors Act, to expedite benefits for newly disabled combat veterans.
The legislation, supported by the Disabled American Veterans, would provide all new Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who have been diagnosed by the DoD with a disability that will impair their ability to earn a living, but who have not yet been rated by the VA, with immediate benefits equal to a 30% disability rating until the VA has made a final decision on their claim. For a single veteran, that means about $400 per month, and more if there is a family involved. Any Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury would also qualify for benefits under the bill.
"Today's announced pilot program is good news. It means the military and VA are making progress on common-sense reforms that will make it easier for America's wounded warriors to get the benefits they've earned by fighting for their country," said Congressman Donnelly. "Until the VA has fixed the complicated and overwhelmed disability claims process, I will continue to fight on behalf of all disabled veterans to reduce the claims backlog and get them their benefits sooner."