Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today announced his full support for new Department of Veterans Affairs efforts to reduce the nationwide veterans benefits claims backlog. The VA announced this week that it will mandate overtime work by claims processors in each of its 56 regional benefits offices.
This is the second recent step the VA has taken to reduce the department's severe claims backlog. The VA has placed an emphasis on settling high-priority claims such as those by homeless veterans, those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former prisoners of war, Medal of Honor recipients, and veterans filing Fully developed Claims, which are explained at http://www.benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/.
"Soldiers and veterans don't deserve to be ignored when they ask for the benefits they worked and fought so hard to earn," Grijalva said. "I've heard all kinds of heartbreaking stories from Southern Arizonans about how the backlog has affected their lives. Late treatments, less income, lower quality housing and fewer services aren't what they signed up for or what they were promised. This is a good step by the VA and I hope it's a sign of more to come."
The VA expects to treat around 5.5 million veterans in the U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam this year, the majority of whom have medical issues due to their military service. The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in Tucson serves more than 170,000 veterans in eight counties in Southern Arizona and one county in Western New Mexico.
Claims for wounded soldiers separating from the military for medical reasons will continue to be handled separately on a priority basis with the Department of Defense through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System.