On Monday, October 28th, the House of Representatives passed legislation, including two bills authored by Rep. Jon Runyan, which will benefit veterans and help speed up and simplify the veterans' disability claims process.
Passed as part of H.R. 2189, Rep. Runyan's bill, H.R. 2423, the Disabled Veterans Access to Medical Exams Improvement Act, seeks to expedite the claims process by extending the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into contracts with private physicians to conduct veterans' medical disability evaluations through 2016.
"Recently, the Department of Veterans' Affairs reported that it had a backlog of more than 400,000 veterans' benefits claims as the fiscal year ended in September," said Rep. Runyan. "This is simply unacceptable. The legislation that passed yesterday will speed up the very first step that vets have to go through to begin the claims process: undergoing their disability exam. Expanding contracting so that more civilian doctors are involved will ultimately help speed up the claims process so that veterans will have faster access to healthcare."
In addition, the bill will also extend license portability to contract examination providers so that physicians with an active state license may provide C&P examinations in another state because they are working on behalf of the Federal government. H.R. 2423 will also extend the number of VA regional offices allowed to utilize contract examinations from 10 to 15.
Also passed on the House floor as part of H.R. 1405 was Runyan's legislation H.R. 733, the Access to Veterans Benefits Improvement Act. This legislation will provide certain local and state government employees access to case tracking information through the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
"There is no doubt that we have a responsibility to our veterans to ensure that every effort is made to simplify the claims process," said Runyan. "Key to this effort are the County Veteran Service Officers, whose expertise in claim development helps veterans all across the country. Veterans are often frustrated when they ask for help from a County Service Officer and learn that they are unable to directly access the most basic information on their claim status. While looking to remedy that complication and broaden access to case-tracking information, careful consideration must also be given to the protection of veterans' private information. This is the balance that this bill strikes."
Both of Congressman Runyan's legislative provisions passed the House of Representatives as part of these two larger veterans' legislative packages. H.R. 1405 passed by voice vote, and H.R. 2189 passed by a count of 404-1.