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Establishing Commission or Task Force to Evaluate the Backlog of Disability Claims

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RUNYAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman Miller for yielding to me.

As chairman of the House Veterans' Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, I am keenly aware that one of the most critical issues impacting our Nation's veterans is the severe veterans' claims backlog.

Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported it had a backlog of more than 400,000 veterans' benefits claims as the fiscal year ended in September. This is simply unacceptable. To help speed up the veterans' claims process, we must look at every phase of that process.

One of the first steps in this process is the medical exam to determine benefit eligibility. That is why earlier this year I introduced H.R. 2423, the Disabled Veterans' Access to Medical Exams Improvement Act, provisions of which are now contained within section 201 of H.R. 2189. This section would extend the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into contracts with private physicians to conduct veterans' medical disability evaluations.

With the passage of this bill, this successful program allowing physicians outside the VA to conduct contract examinations would continue for an additional 3 years, until 2016. This would allow VA to more quickly evaluate veterans' disabilities and facilitate quicker access to the care they need.

Second, this bill would also extend license portability to contract examination providers, meaning that physicians with an active State license may provide C&P exams in other States because they are working on behalf of the Federal Government. Although the VA and DOD already provide license portability for physicians working directly for them, this authority is not extended to contract examination providers. This provision is designed to facilitate the C&P examination process by allowing contract physicians the flexibility to travel and assist in areas that are experiencing lengthy delays in scheduling examinations.

Finally, this piece of legislation would also expand the number of VA regional offices that would utilize contract examinations from 10 to 15. These medical examinations are a key component of the disability claims process. By expanding the authority and scope of the contract examinations process, veterans would receive the necessary medical evidence for their claim in a timely manner.


Mr. RUNYAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman.

This would reduce overall claim development and processing time, resulting in the faster issuance of a final decision for the claim.

I support H.R. 2189, as amended to include my provision, and encourage all Members to support this important bill for veterans.


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