Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02) issued the following statement after House passage of five bills regarding assistance for veterans and the disability claims backlog:
"Our military men and women earned the benefits they were promised, and they deserve to receive them in a timely manner. Anything less is an embarrassment, and upholding our commitments to servicemembers must be a top priority. As an Army Reserve officer, I've seen firsthand the sacrifices and contributions they and their families make, and I was proud to support these bills targeting the veterans' claims backlog and providing additional housing, education and employment assistance to our nation's heroes."
H.R. 2189 would establish a task force to evaluate the backlog of veterans' disability claims and the claims appeals process and issue a report to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki outlining potential improvements and solutions.
Rep. Griffin sent a letter to Secretary Shinseki in September 2012 expressing concerns regarding the significant backlog of veterans' claims at the VA Regional Office in North Little Rock.
Rep. Griffin also joined his colleagues in sending a letter to President Barack Obama in May 2013 requesting he "take direct action" to end "the current Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog."
In March 2013, Rep. Griffin signed an Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) petition "calling on President Obama to establish a Presidential Commission to end the VA disability benefits backlog."
H.R. 1405 would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to include an appeals form with any notice of the decision to deny a benefits claim and would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide veterans' case-tracking information access to state or local government agencies assisting veterans with benefit claims. It also caps total annual bonus payments for VA employees at $345 million through FY2018. Currently, the VA distributes about $400 million in employee bonuses each year.
The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act (H.R. 1742) would ensure that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not count benefits to severely disabled veterans for in-home aid and attendance when determining Section 8 or public housing rental assistance eligibility and rent calculations.
The Veterans Economic Opportunity (H.R. 2481) would establish the Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration and an Undersecretary of Veterans Economic Opportunity to direct activities related to vocational rehabilitation and employment programs, educational assistance programs, Veterans' housing loan programs, and the Veterans Small Business Program. It also would extend homeless veterans reintegration programs through FY2018, expand the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program, and streamline the processing of GI bill claims for students and educational institutions.
The Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education Improvement Act (H.R. 2011) would extend for two years the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education, through December 31, 2015. It also would ensure the Committee has a member who is a veteran of a post-9/11 conflict and would add the post-9/11 GI Bill to the Committee's review responsibilities.
Rep. Griffin has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 17 years and holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In September 2005, Griffin was mobilized to active duty to serve as an Army prosecutor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the home of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). In May 2006, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and deployed to Iraq.