On June 28, 2013, the House VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing on multiple pieces of pending veterans’ legislation. The legislation was wide ranging covering improvements to claims processing, improvements to receiving initial claims prior to a final claim determination, prioritizing some veterans’ claims, as well as many other issues.
Two pieces of legislation, H.R. 1623, the “VA Claims Efficiency Through Information Act of 2013” and H.R. 1809, provide more information to veterans with claims pending. H.R. 1623 requires the VA Secretary to maintain an internet website to provide information in an efficient and accessible method to inform veterans who may have claims pending. H.R. 1809, like H.R. 1623, provides greater information to a veteran submitting a claim, but also provides information on average wait times for claims processing and the percentage of claims approved. This will increase the understanding of the process and may help set expectations of how long a veteran may have to wait for a claim to be adjudicated.
Paralyzed Veterans of America strongly supported H.R. 2086, the “Pay As You Rate Act.” Reducing the backlog and providing timely disability ratings should remain the number one priority for all involved. But at present, veterans who have been waiting for a decision on their initial claims endure hardships during transition from service, particularly among service members and veterans living with disabilities, family responsibilities, unemployment, and other adjustment issues. Those veterans will benefit greatly from a timely decision on an initial claim for VA benefits. Paralyzed Veterans believes that it does not make sense that payment and benefits should be delayed even though a decision on a specific disability has been made by the Secretary. Though this will not solve the problem of unmet needs for disabled veterans who are waiting for their final decision, it will begin providing access to care, benefits and financial assistance that is so critical to an improved quality of life.
One piece of legislation that Paralyzed Veterans expressed concern with was H.R. 2382, the “Prioritizing Urgent Claims for Veterans Act.” The legislation would prioritize claims for those veterans over 70 years old, veterans who are terminally ill and those with life-threatening illnesses. Paralyzed Veterans believes VA has the authority to do this and is already taking these steps when necessary. While Paralyzed Veterans understands the intent, the legislation seems arbitrary as well as unnecessary. In addition, the proposed language doesn't even mention "financial hardship" as a condition which is potentially more of a problem for Paralyzed Veterans members. Paralyzed Veterans recommended this be included which would also potentially help widows awaiting DIC and veterans on pension with static, catastrophic disabilities.
Learn more about the work of Paralyzed Veterans of America on Capitol Hill