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Public Statements

Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


VETERANS' BENEFITS IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 24, 2008)

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Mr. FILNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, obviously we rise in strong support of S. 3023, as amended, the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008. Just by the listing of the title of the bill, you see how wide ranging this legislation is.

We have, Madam Speaker, 24 million veterans in this country, over 2.5 million of which receive disability compensation benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Upon filing a claim for disability compensation at the VA, our veterans and their dependents face increased waiting times, along with an increasingly adversarial claims processing system.

From 2002 up until 2007, the backlog of disability claims rose from 250,000 to nearly 650,000 claims pending. That is an insult to the veterans who have served this Nation. During the same period, the VA consistently missed its performance targets on nearly all compensation and pension claims processing fronts.

These problems are not new. General Omar Bradley, who was a Director of the Veterans Administration after World War II, in the mid-50s said in a comprehensive report that ``the dominant problems are the carryover from past decades of a backward-looking pension philosophy and our failure to adjust the existing veterans programs to fundamental changes in our society.''

This quote is pretty striking, because the same thing could be said of the claims processing system 50 years later.

After nearly 2 years of oversight hearings, informed by numerous reports examining these issues, the committee, led by our colleague John Hall of New York, who chairs the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, set out to transform this broken and outdated system. He introduced and our House subsequently passed the Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008, H.R. 5892, which would comprehensively modernize VA's claim processing system. This legislation is the cornerstone of this Senate bill, S. 3023.

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