Hare Supports Bill To Overhaul VA Disability
Congressman Phil Hare, a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, today voted in favor of legislation to overhaul the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) broken disability claims process, easing the road to treatment for hundreds of thousands of our nation's veterans. The VA currently has a backlog of more than 800,000 claims and it is expected to surpass 1 million by 2009.
"800,000 backlogged disability claims is a moral black eye on our nation," Hare said. "No veteran should ever have to stand in line to receive the care they deserve."
The Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act would instantly pay partial claims for severely wounded veterans, completely overhaul the prehistoric ratings schedule which has contributed to the size and scope of the backlog, and repair the flawed and broken system of processing claims.
"Our wounded warriors deserve the best healthcare money can buy, not mountains of unnecessary paperwork and miles of red tape," Hare said. "This bill would finally start to our veterans the benefit of the doubt."
Hare has advocated processing disability claims like tax returnspay now, audit later. A form of this concept was included in the legislation. Currently, returning veterans with an unequivocal service connected injury have to wait for all of their other injuries (including minor ones) to be processed before receiving payment. This bill would award partial claims to severely injured veterans right away for their most critical injuries.
This legislation also requires a fundamental change sought by Hare in the disability rating schedule that currently prioritizes cases for treatment. The Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities, last comprehensively updated over 60 years ago, does not coincide with current medical practices and guidelines, especially in the area of mental health. "We cannot adequately meet the 21st Century needs of our veterans with a World War 2 era ratings schedule," Hare said. "This update is long overdue."
Finally, the bill requires additional training for claims adjudicators and improvements to the work credit system where currently VA staff is rewarded for the quantity of claims they process instead of the quality of their work.
"This bill is a good first step," Hare said. "I will not rest until we reduce the disability claims backlog to zero."