WASHINGTON, DC -- The House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing today to examine the VA's process for adjudicating complex disability claims. While the VA has reduced the claims backlog by 34 percent since March 2013, the VA Inspector General continues to find issues with the current process for handling complicated claims. Today's hearing explored options to increase the efficiency and accuracy of the adjudication process.
"While progress is being made to reduce the benefits backlog, there are a number of challenges that must be resolved to improve the adjudication process. I look forward to working with the VA on solving these issues so our nation's heroes can receive the benefits they've earned in the most timely and efficient manner possible," said Rep. Dina Titus (NV-01), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.
Among the issues raised today, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (TX-16) highlighted the challenges of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) and the massive delays facing injured soldiers as they await decisions from the VA.
"At Fort Bliss, 1100 out of 1800 soldiers in the IDES process are waiting for a VA rating and many have waited over 300 days. They are literally in bureaucratic limbo as they wait on VA before they can move on with their lives. This situation needs to be addressed and we will continue to partner with VA and hold them accountable," said Rep. O'Rourke.
In October, the House passed bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2189) that included a number of measures that would positively affect the outcomes of complex medical conditions. Key provisions include:
H.R. 2088 - Introduced by Rep. Mike Michaud (ME-02), Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, this provision would create a pilot program for Adjudication Centers of Excellence to focus on the most complex medical conditions, which would result in increased efficiency, timeliness, and consistency in adjudicating those medical conditions.
H.R. 2086 - Introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (NV-01), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, the "Pay As You Rate Act" would require the VA to pay benefits to veterans as individual components of their claims are reviewed, rather than at the completion of the entire claim, which would provid veterans with quicker payments for their disabilities.
H.R. 1623 - Introduced by Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA-35), this provision would require the VA to track their timeliness and accuracy of adjudicating individual medical conditions at the regional office and national levels in order to identify the medical conditions that are not being processed in a timely and accurate manner.