Gov. Rick Perry today emphasized the need to simplify veterans' transition back into civilian life by reducing the number of claims pending at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regional offices in Waco and Houston. This month, the governor announced his office will fund up to 12 new veterans counselors to help the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) assist the VA to more quickly process benefits claims.
"Our veterans have fought bravely in faraway lands and shouldn't have to come home and do battle with bureaucracy," Gov. Perry said. "Although this is a national issue, Texas will not stand by idly while our veterans are left waiting. We are firmly committed to fulfilling our moral duty to our service members by ensuring they receive their benefits in a timely manner."
The governor has directed the 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, 38 percent of which have been 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," TVC Chair Brig. Gen. 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.
"Governor Perry's innovative approach could help reduce a backlog of VA claims for our veteran men and women and their families," Rep. Doc Anderson said. "The experienced staff of the Texas Veterans Commission will be able to step in and help immediately."
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.