May 06, 2015

Manchin Reports on VA Backlog Progress, Introduces Bill to Address Claims Delay

The Senators release the VA Backlog Working Group 2015 Report and introduce the “21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act”

Washington, D.C. – As a member of the VA Backlog Working Group and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), David Vitter (R-LA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Susan Collins (R-ME) to release the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, comprehensive legislation designed to create a system that can withstand surges in disability claims without generating another veteran disability claims backlog. Text of the legislation is available by clicking here.

The Senators also released the VA Backlog Working Group 2015 Report in which the Working Group identifies the progress that has been made on the claims backlog since 2014, which Working Group recommendations have been implemented by the VA and Congress, and what actions must still be taken to fully transition the VA to a 21st century benefits delivery system. You can read their report by clicking here.

“It is encouraging that the VA has made some improvements to decrease the claims backlog for VA benefits, but there are still lingering issues with processing claims when veterans need benefits the most,” Senator Manchin said. “In order to make sure our veterans receive the care that they need and deserve, the VA must continue to adapt reforms that will allow the VA to run more efficiently and effectively. That is why I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation that offers commonsense solutions to ensuring the system can weather another surge in benefits claims.”

“One of the greatest privileges of serving Nevada in the U.S. Senate is the opportunity to work on behalf of our state’s more than 300,000 veterans. Locally and nationwide, our American heroes face great challenges, chief among them is the VA disability claims backlog,” said Senator Dean Heller. “I am proud to spearhead the VA Backlog Working Group with Senator Casey in an effort to ensure a continued decline in wait time for veterans’ benefit claims. The red tape our veterans face is unacceptable, and until the backlog is eliminated, I won’t back down.”

“The Administration has taken important steps to reduce the disability claims backlog but this report addresses the many gaps that remain. Now is the time to advance bipartisan legislation that will move the VA’s disability claims system into the 21st Century so that it delivers the relief that our Veterans and their families deserve. It’s simply unacceptable to have a Veteran with a disability wait hundreds of days for their claim to be resolved,” said Senator Bob Casey.

The report and legislation were endorsed by several Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), including The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). These organizations have provided and will continue to provide the Working Group with invaluable input.

Details of the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act:

The 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act proposes three areas of improvement to the claims process to ensure more accurate and timely decisions for our nation’s veterans.

Title I – Benefits Claims Submission. This title will assist and educate veterans on the benefits of submitting a completed claim and encourages the use of the resources and services available to help a veteran complete a claim.

  • Ensures veterans’ have access to information about the claims process through eBenefits.
  • Encourages DOD to ensure VSOs have greater access to participate in Transition Assistance Program (TAP) seminars.
  • Grants more expeditious hearings for veterans appealing a claim decision.

Title II - Reforming Practices of VA Regional Offices.  Personnel and management must be given tools to perform efficiently. This title institutes improvements to Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) processes to increase accuracy and efficiency at the regional office level, and ensure transparency.

  • Improves management through a GAO assessment of good management practices, implementation of a training program for certain managers, and establishing better communication with VSOs and Congress.
  • Ensures that critical issues—including the Resource Allocation Model, improvements to the Veterans Benefits Management System, and the inventory of dependency and non-rating related claims—are properly addressed by the VA. 
  • Increases transparency to the public and lawmakers on the size and scope of the current backlog.

Title III - Government Response. This section holds the government accountable and helps to ensure the claims process is a priority.

  • Establishes better cooperation from federal agencies to transfer requested information.
  • Presses VBA employees to process information it receives from these agencies in a timely fashion.