Dr. Dan Benishek (MI-01) recently introduced the "Reducing Barriers to Veterans' Benefits Act" (H.R. 6297), a bill to speed up the veterans' disability claims process for veterans with hearing loss.
"This initiative will allow many of Northern Michigan's veterans to receive their benefits faster. Our veterans fought for our freedoms overseas and they shouldn't have to fight government red tape to receive their benefits when they return home," said Dr. Benishek, a doctor who worked at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain for 20 years.
The "Reducing Barriers to Veterans' Benefits Act" will expedite the process for VA claims related to tinnitus--or hearing loss. Veterans who served in a military occupation that was prone to causing hearing loss and have been identified by a medical doctor as having hearing loss will immediately be eligible to receive VA benefits. With this change, veterans will no longer have to go through the lengthy process of gathering evidence and submitting their information to the Veterans Administration for review. With one-third of all VA claims related to hearing loss, this initiative will ease the overall claims backlog.
"Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions for our veterans, so fast-tracking these cases will help ease the VA disability claims backlog. I've been speaking with veterans all over Northern Michigan and they agree this measure will be positive step toward improving the disability claims process," added Dr. Benishek, Michigan's sole member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Currently, 66 percent of VA disability compensation claims are more than 125 days old and deemed "backlogged." In the Detroit Regional VA Office, which processes disability claims for Michigan veterans, the average time required to complete a claim is 15 to 18 months.
"After working in a VA hospital for 20 years, I know the frustration of dealing with the VA bureaucracy and I'm committed to ensuring our veterans receive the benefits they deserve as soon as possible," said Dr. Benishek.
Michigan's First District is home to more than 68,000 veterans, which accounts for 13.7 percent of the District's population.