Gov. Rick Perry today announced his office will fund up to 12 new veterans counselors to expedite benefits claims for veterans. The Governor's Office funding will allow the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) to reduce the number of veterans' claims pending at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regional offices in Waco and Houston.
"The backlog of claims at the VA is a national crisis, and it is especially bad in Texas. It is unacceptable that veterans have to wait extraordinary amounts of time to receive their federal benefits," Gov. Perry said. "Just as Washington fails to provide adequate border security and disaster relief for our citizens, the federal government is once again falling short in one of its most important responsibilities, in this case taking care of our Texas military veterans. With our veterans in mind this week, I look forward to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs working with Texas to ensure our veterans can quickly access the help and support that was promised to them."
The governor has directed TVC to create a new Claims Processing Assistance Team (CPAT) to help address the backlog of more than 39,000 pending disability and health benefit claims in Texas. The Waco regional office has over 18,000 pending claims with 35 percent pending for over four months while the Houston regional office has over 20,000 pending claims with 41 percent pending for over four months. CPAT will draw upon TVC's expertise in helping veterans manage claims, and will work closely with the VA in all areas of the claims process to reduce the backlog.
"On behalf of my fellow veterans, I would like to express my appreciation to Gov. Perry for enabling the Texas Veterans Commission to establish this special claims processing assistance team for Houston and Waco," TVC Chair Brigadier General Karen Rankin said. "Nothing is more important than ensuring Texas veterans do not experience delays in receiving much needed medical care and compensation for service connected disabilities."
Claims backlogs delay decisions on veterans' disability compensation and medical care, often causing physical and economic hardship for veterans and their families. For every month these claims are pending, TVC estimates a delay of nearly $37 million in payments to Texas veterans.
"While I am troubled that the federal government has not acted on the matter of expediting veterans' claims, I am delighted that the governor has taken the initiative to assist our veterans in this serious matter," Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock said. "I believe these funds will certainly improve the unacceptable wait times for our disabled veterans to receive their much needed support."
TVC has a successful track record in special initiatives with the VA. In 2008, TVC and the VA participated in a pilot project that significantly reduced delays in claims processing, leading the VA Central Office in Washington, D.C. to instruct regional offices nationwide to adopt TVC's claims processing methods as best practices.
For more information, please visit http://www.tvc.state.tx.us/.