May 13, 2020

Manchin Urges Transparency In VA Disability Claims Process During COVID-19 Pandemic

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), led the call for transparency and accountability as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suspends in-person compensation and pension (C&P) exams for Veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie today, Manchin and his committee colleagues pressed the Department to outline its plans for transitioning to virtual C&P exams during the ongoing crisis and issue updated guidelines to ensure Veterans seeking disability compensation are met with a fair and transparent process.

The Senators said in part, “The Department must issue clear guidance to its Regional Offices (ROs), those who perform C&P examinations and potential beneficiaries so that veterans are not needlessly confused or harmed during this unprecedented time. For example, we were disappointed to learn that veterans, including those in high-risk health groups, were still required to go to C&P exams until early April, exposing themselves to unneeded risk and potentially putting their health in jeopardy. Veterans should not have been unnecessarily forced from their homes during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Emphasizing the importance of conducting virtual exams during the pandemic, the Senators pushed the Department to provide Congress with its plans to provide assistance to low-income or rural Veterans—with limited access to reliable broadband, internet, or smart phone capabilities—so that they may participate in their appointments remotely. They also requested that VA provide information on their appointment deferment and cancellation policies.

The Senators continued, “Veterans are normally cautioned to not miss their scheduled C&P exams because it can cause delay in the adjudication of their claims as they wait for new appointments. However, during a pandemic we cannot continue operating business-as-usual. It is critical for VA to have reasonable expectations of veterans for completing examinations during this time. As such, we need additional information about VA’s new process and procedures for C&P exams.”

The Veterans’ Affairs Committee members also called for more transparency and oversight in the C&P exam tracking process, by requesting a weekly update on the number of Veterans undergoing examinations and how those examinations are being conducted.

The letter can be viewed in full here.

Senator Manchin launched an information resources page where West Virginians can learn more about the coronavirus pandemic and how to protect themselves and their families. To learn more please click here.

To receive daily updates from Senator Manchin on the coronavirus pandemic, please click here