Chuck Grassley today said that figures used in a recent case before the Supreme Court that showed between 50 and 70 percent of veterans' benefits appeals had been unjustifiably denied were a shocking revelation about the severe and growing backlog of veterans' claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs. During the oral arguments, Chief Justice Roberts called the situation "startling."
Grassley sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki asking for additional information about the backlog and for any plans the department has to improve the quality of VA claims decisions and reduce unnecessary appeals.
"The fact that the VA's decisions are not only overturned on appeal frequently, but that a majority of claims were so wrongly decided in the first place shows me that there are serious, systemic problems with the process for approving veterans' claims," Grassley said. "After providing substantial increases in taxpayer dollars to the VA to address the claims backlog, it's clear that devoting more money alone is not the answer. The VA needs to tackle this problem head on, because without substantial reform, thousands of veterans will continue to face needless delays and red tape."
The decisions made by the VA result in hardship for veterans who are forced to wait longer and deal with additional bureaucratic red tape to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. By diverting resources from approving additional claims to dealing with appeals in which the VA's position is not only wrong but without justification, the backlog of claims awaiting approval is only made worse.
Grassley also said that the poor decisions made by the VA cause needless harm to both the veteran and the taxpayer.
He said that when a claim goes to appeal and the court finds the government's position to be unjustified, attorneys for the plaintiff are eligible to have their fees paid by the government under the Equal Access to Justice Act.