House Democrats said Thursday they plan to introduce legislation that they say will help the Department of Veterans Affairs deal with its backlog of disability claims.
The VA, which faces a backlog of nearly 900,000 claims, announced last week that it would expedite the handling of claims that have been in the system the longest.
Among the the 10 bills being introduced is one that would require annual reports on VA regional offices that fail to meet backlog reduction targets. The Washington Post reported in February that veterans using the Baltimore office often wait a year or more to have their claims processed.
Another bill would require the Department of Defense to provide servicemembers’ records to the VA more quickly, an area that is blamed for some of the delay in handling claims
“We need to address the unacceptably large backlog of claims in order to get veterans the benefits they’ve earned faster,” said Rep. Mike Michaud (Maine), the senior Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The VA has set an aggressive goal of ending the backlog by 2015, and our efforts are focused on helping them accomplish it.”
Other bills to be introduced are aimed at encouraging the automation of the claims process and improving the VA’s collaboration with other departments.
“These bills represent a coordinated effort to put forth a pragmatic, solutions-oriented approach,” Michaud said.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jeff Miller, (R.- Fla.), has called for the resignation of the VA’s undersecretary of benefits, Allison Hickey, saying the department has not made enough progress in battling the longstanding problem.