In an effort to reduce the backlog of veterans benefit claims, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced last week an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for veterans who have waited one year or longer.
VA claims raters will now make provisional decisions on the oldest claims to allow eligible veterans to collect benefits quicker. Raters will base decisions on evidence provided by the veteran or collected on his or her behalf by the VA.
“Too many veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in a press release. “That is why we are implementing an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog in 2015.
“This initiative is the right thing to do now for veterans who have waited the longest.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. met with Shinseki earlier this month to discuss how to improve veterans care in New Mexico as well as nationally.
The senator said he brought up in the meeting several of the issues that Roswell veterans discussed with him last month, such as the claims backlog and transportation.
Udall is a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veteran Affairs, and Related Agencies, which oversees the VA’s budget.
Last month, he worked to secure an amendment to the Senate budget resolution for the expansion of health care access for rural veterans through programs such as telehealth.
During his meeting with the SENM Veterans Transportation Network last month, several drivers and riders detailed the long days of travel and the preparation necessary for each trip.
Udall expressed his support for the group and said he hoped telehealth, which allows rural veterans to connect with medical experts around the state and country, could help reduce the number of trips the organization will have to make.
He called the VA’s initiative a “good first step,” but said there should be a system in place to “take care of all veterans in a reasonable amount of time.”
He said his office will make sure the VA keeps “the fire built under them and does a good job for these veterans.”
“We want to stay in touch with veterans to see that they’re getting taken care of,” he said.
A claims initiative fact sheet is available online at va.gov. To learn more about veteran disability benefits, visit ebenefits.va.gov.