Dr. Dan Benishek (MI-01) recently authored the "Reducing Barriers to Veterans Benefits Act," legislation designed to speed up the veterans' disability claims process for veterans with hearing loss and address the veterans' claims backlog.
"The goal of this legislation is to allow many of Northern Michigan's veterans to receive their benefits faster. As a doctor, I know that our veterans have to wait far too long to get access to their benefits. We need to address this problem now. Bureaucratic slowdowns should not keep our veterans from receiving the benefits they have earned," said Dr. Benishek, a surgeon who worked at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain for 20 years.
The "Reducing Barriers to Veterans Benefits Act" will expedite the process for VA claims related to tinnitus--or hearing loss. Veterans who served in a military occupation that was prone to causing hearing loss and have been identified by a medical doctor as having hearing loss will immediately be eligible to receive VA benefits. With this change, veterans will no longer have to go through the lengthy process of gathering evidence and submitting their information to the Veterans Administration for review. With one-third of all VA claims related to hearing loss, this initiative will help relieve the overall claims backlog.
"By expediting claims for veterans with hearing loss, we can help ease the entire VA disability backlog. This legislation is an important step toward fixing the backlog and providing our nation's heroes with the best service and care possible," added Dr. Benishek, who is Michigan's sole member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health.
Currently, 69.4 percent of VA disability compensation claims are more than 125 days old and deemed backlogged. In 2012, Dr. Benishek released a plan to help address this backlog and has been fighting in Congress to ensure veterans receive their disability benefits faster. Military veterans comprise 14.4 percent of the population of Michigan's First Congressional District.