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Public Statements

Letter to Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Delays in the Department of Veterans Affairs

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki,

We write to you with great concern over the inordinate delays in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Fiduciary Program, further compounded by the lack of sufficient Field Examiners in the Hartford Regional Office to meet the current needs of our Connecticut Veterans and their families. We greatly value the service our veterans have paid to our nation and believe that the current situation is limiting access to deserved benefits.

As you know, the administration of the Fiduciary Program was consolidated into a hub at the Indianapolis Regional Office. The only remaining role in this program for the Hartford Regional Office is performing a field examination and processing the associated paperwork. Because the VA withholds retroactive payments until a fiduciary can be appointed, when it is determined that the claimant is unable to adequately manage their financial affairs, the timeframe for appointing a conservator is extremely important. A Field Examiner must meet with the claimant and the proposed fiduciary before the retroactive payment can be released to ensure that the individual is suitable to handle the claimant's finances. The current process is taking many months and the ability of our staffs to get meaningful information regarding the process has been less than satisfactory. As the VA has increased its consolidation of claims processing, the ability of our staffs to assist veterans and their families who are already frustrated is additionally hampered by an opaque process.

It has recently come to our attention that there is only one Field Examiner working to complete all of the exams in the State of Connecticut. These veterans and widows have often been waiting many months just for an initial decision on their claims, which results in a sizeable retroactive payment. While the VA releases the monthly payment to the claimant during the fiduciary process, oftentimes it is not enough money to cover their outstanding bills and any additional delay creates an unnecessary financial hardship. The previous acceptable timeline for the VAROs to complete the field examination was within 45 days after receipt of fiduciary assignment. Since the consolidation, a number of our veterans have died while awaiting fiduciary assignment. This has caused additional hardship on their families. The increased delay created by deficient staffing of the Field Examiner position is simply unacceptable. These veterans and their families generally have bills to pay such as mortgages and medical bills, and are frequently in dire need of these funds.

With the recent news reports raising concerns regarding the administration of the VA Fiduciary responsibilities on behalf of our veterans, the insufficient staffing at the VARO Hartford causes us additional alarm. We would greatly appreciate specific plans to remedy this situation, both nationally and in Connecticut, by providing an adequate number of Field Examiners sufficient to meet the needs of our veterans and their families.

Thank your in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Joseph I. Lieberman Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator United States Senator


Christopher S. Murphy Rosa L. DeLauro
Member of Congress Member of Congress


John B. Larson Joe Courtney
Member of Congress Member of Congress

/s/
James A. Himes
Member of Congress


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