Texas is home to just over 1.6 million U.S. military veterans. Recent performance records have shown that the Waco Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO) takes an average of 403 days to process a disability claim, the worst record of all the 56 claims processing centers in the country. The Houston VARO averages 301 days per claim, which is also among the worst in the country. It is very concerning to learn about this huge backlog which is causing our nations veterans to wait far too long for access to their benefits.
On Friday, the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing entitled: Breaking Through the Backlog: Evaluating the Effectiveness of the New State Strike Force Team. Members of the Texas Veterans Commission and McLennan County Veterans Service Officer, Steve Hernandez, were in attendance to testify before the committee regarding the current conditions of the backlog, the Texas Strike Force Team, and additional solutions to improve the claims process. The State of Texas recently implemented an initiative that places Texas Veterans Commission employees in each Texas VARO to assist with claims processing. The hearing was held to determine if the practices and policies put in place can help reverse the growing disability claims backlog on a national scale.
While the system of processing veteran's claims is a federal issue, I commend the State of Texas for intervening to help solve the backlog. I am disappointed that the Federal government has been unable to process the claims as well as it should. Congress has given the VA the resources it has asked for to help alleviate these problems, but it seems that the problems are likely to be related to culture and/or systems as opposed to being a resource issue. Each of the witnesses stressed that the bureaucracy and red tape involved in the claims process immensely contribute to the massive backlog. I believe that taking care of our veterans needs to be a priority and will continue to work to have the federal government find the tools and solutions to implement an improved and more timely claims processing system for our veterans.