VetsFirst submitted written testimony last week to the House and Senate Committees on Veteran’s Affairs concerning our legislative priorities for 2010.
VetsFirst’s submission builds on our commitment to proactive advocacy on key issues that impact veterans with disabilities, their families and survivors. The five main advocacy areas include reforms to the VA claims system to address the claims and appeals backlog, improved access to health care, expanded employment opportunities for veterans, increased access to housing, and better supports for veterans’ families and survivors.
One of VetsFirst’s top priorities is to reform the VA benefits claims process. VetsFirst believes that implementing systemic reforms to the claims process is the key to ending the backlog. VetsFirst supports changes to both the manner in which claims are processed and the rules that govern claims adjudication. Without this two pronged strategy, the current problems will likely continue.
VetsFirst believes that there are some critical reforms that must be implemented to change the manner in which claims are processed. One of these reforms includes reorganization of the claims decision-making system so that each claim is processed by a single team that specializes in claims related to a particular disability. VetsFirst also believes that staff must receive increased training and that supervisors must be held responsible for continued patterns of error. Lastly, when evaluating employee performance, the quantity of claims processed must not overtake quality in importance or focus.
Although changes to the manner in which claims are processed must be implemented, VetsFirst also supports changes to the rules that govern claims adjudication. Specifically, VetsFirst believes that innovative approaches must he employed to create greater efficiency in both the procedural and substantive aspects of claims adjudication. An example of an innovative approach that VetsFirst believes should be explored is revising the evidentiary burdens of establishing entitlement to service connection. For example, removing the need to establish a nexus between the onset or aggravation of a disease, disability, or injury during active military services and medical evidence of a current diagnosis would remove a substantial burden from the veteran and the VA in the development of the evidence process.
VetsFirst will continue to pursue policies that ensure that veterans with disabilities are able to experience a greater sense of self-sufficiency and have access to needed services and benefits.
Stay tuned for more posts in the coming weeks exploring VetsFirst’s other advocacy priorities.