U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) today introduced the Accountability for Veterans Act. This legislation would help increase the rate at which the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) obtains the records it needs from other federal agencies in order to process benefits claims.
"As a Senator from a state with a record number of veterans waiting to receive their benefits and a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I want to do everything I can to help the VA clear this backlog. Today, I introduced a bill to let government agencies dealing with veteran claims know that it is unacceptable to delay the veterans' claims process any longer. Nevada is home to countless selfless patriots to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. This bill demands better collaboration between agencies so that our heroes receive the benefits they earned and deserve in a timely manner," said Senator Dean Heller.
The Accountability for Veterans Act gives a government agency such as the Social Security Administration, the Department of Defense, or the National Archives and Records Administration 30 days to comply with a VA request for records. If the request is not fulfilled, the government agency must provide a reason why the record was not provided and an estimated time when the record will be provided. The VA must then notify the veteran with the reason for the delay and an estimated time of completion.
In addition, the VA must log all requests sent and all requests provided and denied and send a report every six months to Congress on the progress.
Heller introduced the legislation just days after receiving a letter from Undersecretary of Veterans Affairs for Benefits Allison Hickey in which Hickey outlined how the current process can cause lengthy delays in the claims process. A copy of that letter is below.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Blinded Veterans Association have welcomed this legislation. Copies of their endorsement letters are also below.
Since joining the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in the 113th Congress, Heller has actively pursued the root causes of Nevada's backlog, which is currently at 10,000 claims. In March, Heller questioned panelists at a Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing and in February he met with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to discuss the issue. Heller also visited the Las Vegas VA Medical Center in late March.