Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today continued her efforts to support the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) goal of eliminating the benefits claims backlog by 2015. In a letter to President Obama, Kuster joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging the President to help end the back and forth between the VA and Department of Defense (DoD) regarding the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record, and to help ensure that DoD is providing health records to the VA in a timely fashion.
"Our nation's veterans and servicemembers deserve the efficiency and effectiveness that would come with a seamless health record," the group wrote in their letter to the President. "They also deserve the timeliness in resolving their disability claims that may come from DoD providing certified to be complete electronic records to VA for the purpose of adjudicating claims in a timelier manner Veterans need your leadership to address these issues, Mr. President. Our veterans' welfare depends on these important decisions. We stand ready to assist you in any way that you deem necessary to achieve the requests herein."
Earlier today, Kuster participated in a hearing of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee examining the VA's efforts to process long-outstanding benefits claims.
Kuster has consistently spoken out about the need to eliminate the VA benefit claims backlog. Earlier this month, she announced a coordinated legislative package to help the VA in its efforts to address the growing claims backlog. The package of ten bills seeks to help the VA meet its goal of eliminating the backlog in full by 2015, and includes legislation introduced by Kuster that would encourage the VA to make greater use of automation in the processing of veterans claims, increasing efficiency within the Department and freeing up resources to provide more timely services for veterans.
The full text of the letter is below.
May 22, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
We are writing to ask for your timely assistance in ending the bureaucratic back and forth on veterans' records, which is negatively affecting veteran's disability claims, and potentially their health. As you may be aware this was one of eight ideas identified to make government work at the Bi- Partisan No Labels policy forum in which more than twenty-five members of congress participated. However, this has been a long standing concern and issue that seemingly the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense, cannot resolve. The technology exists, the will is fervent, and the time to fix this is now.
Our nation's veterans and servicemembers deserve the efficiency and effectiveness that would come with a seamless health record. They also deserve the timeliness in resolving their disability claims that may come from DoD providing certified to be complete electronic records to VA for the purpose of adjudicating claims in a timelier manner.
As such, we are asking for your immediate action on two specific items. First, end the back and forth amongst DoD and VA regarding the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record. The time has come for a decision to be made and for the permanent merging of electronic health-care records of the DoD and the VA. Select a system, pick a path, and move forward. We can no longer waste the time or money that will result from endless bureaucratic inaction.
Second, it has come to our attention that many claims are being dramatically delayed by DoD's lack of timeliness in providing records to VA with a particular emphasis on our National Guard and Reserve units. Mr. President, if VA is moving into an electronic processing system, it will be impossible to meet Secretary Shinseki's goal of no claim pending for longer than 125 days if VA is waiting on DoD for 175 days. We are asking for your personal commitment that DoD will provide to VA certified to be complete service, personal, and medical records in an electronic format by the end of this calendar year. We believe a timely turnaround would be DoD making the information available within 21 days of discharge or 45 days for previously separated service members.
Veterans need your leadership to address these issues, Mr. President. Our veterans' welfare depends on these important decisions. We stand ready to assist you in any way that you deem necessary to achieve the requests herein.