Today, Congressman Joe Donnelly reintroduced his bipartisan legislation, The Rating and Processing Individuals' Disability (RAPID) Claims Act, with Kentucky Congressman Geoff Davis. The RAPID Claims Act would improve the turnaround time and efficiency of the VA's disability claims process.
"Although we have made progress in recent years, we must continue to improve the timeliness and efficiency of getting veterans the benefits they've earned," said Donnelly. "My legislation, passed by the House last year, would take common-sense steps to improve the benefits system and provide our wounded warriors a faster response on their disability claims. Those who selflessly fought for our freedoms and security deserve a timely and accurate claims process."
Congressman Joe Donnelly introduced The RAPID Claims Act in June 2010. He testified in support of the legislation in July 2010 in front of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. The bill gained 105 bipartisan cosponsors, and in September 2010, the House passed The RAPID Claims Act by voice vote as a part of The Veterans Benefits and Economic Welfare Improvement Act of 2010. The 111th Congress adjourned without the Senate holding a vote on the bill.
Donnelly worked closely with leading veterans' advocates during the crafting of The RAPID Claims Act. Both the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) support the legislation.
"Reforming the VA claims processing system will require many new ideas to provide timely and accurate benefits to veterans while ensuring that all of their rights are protected," said Joe Violante, DAV National Legislative Director. "DAV commends Rep. Donnelly for reintroducing legislation that would codify the Fully Developed Claim program to ensure that participating veterans not only get quicker decisions on claims for disability compensation, but that they remain entitled to full benefits retroactive to the first date they notified VA of their intention to file a claim."
"IAVA is proud to offer our support for Congressman Donnelly's bill to help streamline the VA disability claims process," said Tom Tarantino, IAVA Senior Legislative Associate. "Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are dealing with a claims process that is plagued by inefficiency and inaccuracy. Congressman Donnelly's bill contains several commonsense solutions that will help veterans obtain the benefits that they deserve in a timely and accurate manner."
Donnelly's legislation would accomplish four things that have already been identified as time savers for the handling of veterans' claims:
* First, it would codify into law the VA's nationwide Fully Developed Claim program which allows a veteran to bypass the lengthy claim development period by submitting a complete claim that needs no further substantiating evidence. This program has been operating as a pilot program since 2008, and while VA subsequently made the program available to all veterans nationally, it still lacks the permanence that comes with an Act of Congress.
* Second, Donnelly's bill would amend the Fully Developed Claim program to allow veterans to notify the VA that a fully developed claim is forthcoming, which would secure the effective date of compensation for a veteran participating in the program. Since the time it takes for a veteran to gather evidence on his own to support his fully developed claim can take months or up to a year, this could save a veteran hundreds or even thousands of dollars in compensation.
* Third, if the VA determines that a veteran's fully developed claim is not eligible to be processed under the program for whatever reason, Donnelly's bill would require the VA to notify the veteran of what the claim is lacking.
* Finally, the bill would require that when the VA provides any claim decision to a veteran, it must also automatically include an appeal form so that veterans wishing to appeal the VA's decision can do so more quickly instead of having to ask for an appeal form and waiting for the VA to provide it. Approximately 35,000 to 40,000 veterans appeal VA decisions each year.
The RAPID Claims Act will be sent to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, for its consideration.