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Politics & Government

Sen. Casey: Progress Has Been Made In VA System, But More Needs To Be Done

The VA Backlog Working Group has released a new report that shows wait times for care in the VA system are decreasing.

But chairs of the group, Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Dean Heller (R-NV) said more needs to be done. To that end, they have introduced the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, legislation aimed at ensuring the VA can handle disability claims in slow and busy times, and provide accountability. One provision would require the controller general to audit the regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

“To assess the consistency of decisions made concerning the claims for benefits and also ways to improve,” Casey said.

Casey said his office is still hearing from veterans and their families who have had to wait more than a year for a claim to be processed. He said that is not acceptable and added that part of the solution is more communication between departments.

“We require that both secretaries, Defense and Veterans, develop and implement procedures to improve the timely provision of information to the VA to get claims processed,” said Casey. “You can’t process a claim if you don’t have the information required for it.”

Casey said those who served the country should be able to get adequate care, and added that the implications of inadequate care and continued backlogs is far-reaching.

“This is more than a VA problem,” said Casey. “If the VA doesn’t get information from the Department of Defense or other federal agencies then it becomes a problem for the whole federal government.”

Other provisions would help and education veterans on submitting claims, and encourages the use of resources and services available to help with claims; would grant more expeditious hearings for veterans appealing a claim decision; and increases transparency to lawmakers and the public on the size and scope of the current backlog. The bill will be considered in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee next week.