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Mr. DONNELLY of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of H.R. 6132, The Veterans Benefits and Economic Welfare Improvement Act. This bill combines several measures into one solid piece of legislation that will serve our veterans by helping them transition into the job market and improving the disability claims and appeals process, among other things.
Included in this legislation is a bill I introduced to help improve the disability claims process, H.R. 5549, The RAPID Claims Act. The RAPID Claims Act codifies the already successful Fully Developed Claim pilot program that Congress created in 2008, with a few improvements.
Since veterans who participate in the Fully Developed Claim program are gathering their evidence without VA assistance, they should be able to notify VA to mark their date of disability compensation as soon as they begin to put their case together. The RAPID Claims Act ensures this date is protected.
Additionally, if VA decides that a claim submitted by a veteran for the Fully Developed Claim program is actually ineligible for that program, VA should immediately notify the veteran of what is needed to substantiate the claim to allow it to proceed efficiently through the normal disability claim process. If VA adjudicates an incomplete claim without notifying the veteran, the result would be more inaccurately processed claims and a longer appeals backlog. The RAPID Claims Act requires VA to assist such veterans in putting together a regular disability claim to prevent unsatisfactory decisions and unnecessary appeals.
Finally, The RAPID Claims Act ensures that veterans receive an appeals form at the same time as the decision on their disability claim. This will help veterans more quickly prepare and file an appeal if necessary.
I am proud to have worked with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Disabled American Veterans in crafting this legislation, as well as 60 bipartisan colleagues who support it.
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