Senator Clinton Joins Congressman Hall and Veterans Advocates to Call for Support of Legislation to Streamline Veterans Benefits System
Clinton Bill Would Help Cut Through Massive Backlog of Claims, Reduce Time Veterans Must Wait for Benefits They Have Earned Through Their Service
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton joined CongressmanJohn Hall, Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), local elected officials, and veteran leaders and advocates, today to call for support of critical veterans' legislation to end the growing disability claims backlog at the VA. The Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008, which Senator Clinton introduced in August, would enact reforms to improve the delivery of compensation to veterans, their families and their survivors. Senator Clinton's bill is the companion to legislation Congressman John Hall introduced in the House of Representatives where it has passed unanimously.
Overhauling the VA benefit system is a task that is long overdue, and the changes proposed in the Clinton-Hall disability claims measure is critical to ensuring that our veterans are not forced to wait for essential benefits like healthcare, pensions, and vocational rehabilitation. With more veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Senator Clinton is urging her colleagues to pass this critical piece of legislation to ensure that an already overwhelmed VA system will be able to deliver the benefits our veterans have earned in a swift and efficient manner.
"In a time when we are asking so much of our men and women in uniform, it is unacceptable they are often burdened by excessive delays, bureaucratic obstacles and the outdated rules of the VA claims process when they return home. We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude, and we can start by taking steps to streamline the VA system so that we are delivering benefits quickly and fairly to our heroes and their families," said Senator Clinton
"The House of Representatives has spoken with one voice on the need to pass the Disability Claims Modernization Act," Hall said. "However, because Congress will be adjourning soon, this bill must pass the Senate this week if we are to reform the VA bureaucracy and make it easier and faster for veterans to get the benefits they deserve."
"Right now, too many wounded veterans are going broke while waiting for their claims to be processed. The VA is caring for 21st century veterans with 20th century standards and technology. By making desperately needed improvements to the system, we can ensure that those who have sacrificed for our nation are not left waiting for their benefits," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). "IAVA is grateful to Senator Clinton and Congressman Hall for their commitment to overhauling the VA benefits claims system."The Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act includes:
* The establishment of an Office of Survivor Relations to assist family members of deceased veterans. Under current VA rules, if a veteran dies while a claim is being processed, survivors must restart the often lengthy claim process to have it considered; this legislation would allow for survivors to take the place of deceased veterans as the claims process continues.
* A provision to remove a major obstacle to veterans quickly receiving benefits for undisputed severe service-connected injuries, such as missing limbs and paralysis. Currently, veterans with major, undisputed injuries have to wait for all of their injuries, including more complex and invisible ones such as traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder to be evaluated, processed, and rated by the VA before receiving any benefits. The Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008 would allow veterans to receive benefits for undisputed severe injuries even while they wait for the rest of their claims to be adjudicated.
* A requirement to develop a plan to modernize VA record-keeping by implementing comprehensive information technology upgrades, such as converting claims records to electronic format, within one year. The incorporation of modern technology into the claims system would reduce backlog and delays and allow faster and easier access to critical claim information.
Senator Clinton has worked tirelessly to provide support and resources for servicemembers and veterans. Earlier this year, Senator Clinton unveiled the Armed Forces Housing Security Act, to help prevent any Armed Forces member in combat from being foreclosed on, and expands the VA Home Loan program to allow more veterans throughout the country to get a mortgage and refinance their troubled mortgages. In July, Senator Clinton introduced a bill that requires the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to notify servicemembers of their eligibility for their earned veterans' benefits when they separate from service. Last year Senator Clinton introduced the 21st Century GI Bill of Rights Act, which would expand educational, housing and entrepreneurial opportunities for servicemembers, veterans and their families.
Congressman Hall's version of the bill has garnered the support of numerous veterans advocacy and medical organizations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion, the Military Officers' Association of America (MOAA), the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), ALF-CIO, American Veterans (AMVETS), NOVA, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA).