Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) visited the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home in Edison, NJ to mark the upcoming Veterans Day holiday. Pallone spoke with New Jersey veterans and called for an end to the backlog of disability claims within the Veterans Administration (VA).
"On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, it must be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind," said Pallone. "As we approach Veterans Day 2013, on this day and every day, let us honor their service with actions that fulfill our commitment to our troops, their families, and our veterans -- and that are worthy of our grateful nation."
With the war in Afghanistan winding down and more servicemen and women returning home, there is an even more prevalent need for a fully functioning VA, but a backlog of disability claims climbed to unprecedented levels with more than 900,000 benefits claims hanging in the balance. Upon the urging of Congress, the backlog was reduced by over 190,000 claims, but the Republican-led shutdown last month put that progress on hold.
Pallone discussed the package of legislative solutions he backs to further reduce the VA's backlog and get veterans the services they have earned. The package of 10 bills passed the House with bipartisan support on October 28, 2013 and is awaiting action in the Senate.
On Monday, October 28, the House passed legislation (H.R 2189) which included key provisions from the Democratic backlog reduction package including:
*Paying veterans more quickly by paying as their individual conditions are adjudicated.
*Providing veterans with information that may lead to quicker routes to the successful adjudication of their claim.
*Strengthening accountability by requiring VA to regularly track and provide information to the public on claims processing and the performance of VA regional offices.
*Taking steps to help ensure the VA has the needed information from other agencies to accurately process claims in a timely way.
*Encouraging VA to expand the use of automation in processing veterans' claims.
*Speeding up claims by allowing veterans' medical examinations to be done by physicians outside the VA system and encouraging veterans to file fully developed claims.
"Never again should those who served this nation hang in the balance because of political infighting or bureaucratic holdups," said Pallone. "This Veterans Day, the best way to honor the brave men and women who have protected our nation is to make sure they have the benefits they are due and the tools they need to thrive when they return home. We need to do more than just thank American servicemen and women; we need to honor and carryout the obligations we made to them and come through for them the way they did for us."