Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) will announce new legislation to help veterans receive the benefits they deserve in a timely manner. Right now, due to the Department of Veterans' Affairs' (VA) major backlog of claims, the national average wait time is 273 days for veterans to start receiving benefits. Rep. Israel's legislation, the Veterans Backlog Reduction Act, would give provisional benefits to veterans filing for disability if a claim hasn't been processed within 125 days that are equal to an automatic 40 percent disability rating or the average amount payable to a person who receives a payment for the type of disability for which the claim was submitted if the VA has not evaluated the claim within 125 days of it being filed.
Rep. Israel said, "Our veterans who put their lives on the line for our country should never have to wait to receive the benefits they rightfully earned. It is unfathomable that the average wait time for veterans to start receiving benefits is 273 days. The VA must do better, and that's why I'm introducing legislation that would greatly reduce this backlog at the VA by giving veterans whose claims have not been processed within 125 days of being filed an automatic payment."
Currently, there are about 890,000 outstanding claims nationally, with 69 percent of them accounting for veterans that have been waiting beyond the 125-day goal the VA has set. Although the national average wait for receiving disability compensation and benefits is pegged at 273 days and up to 327 days for veterans making claims for the first time, those veterans living in big cities wait for much longer event up to 642 days in New York. The VA has recognized a surge in claims with nearly 1 million added in the last four years, but the slowdown is widely attributed to the fact that 97 percent of veterans' claims are still filed on paper.
The End the VA Claims Backlog Now Act, H.R. 1739, would ensure that veterans waiting longer than 125 days would not be forced to sacrifice yet again. They would be guaranteed provisional benefits to provide much needed financial support while the VA evaluates the medical evidence and his or her claim.