Sunday, November 3, 2013

O'Rourke's VA Bill Passes the House

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the Faster Filing Act, legislation that Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) introduced to help reduce the wait-times that veterans currently face when filing a claim with the VA. This bipartisan and cost-neutral legislation was included in a larger package of ten bills (H.R. 2189) that cleared the House yesterday. It is now awaiting action in the Senate.

After hearing from so many of you about your frustration with the VA claims process and often waiting over a year to get an answer, O'Rourke introduced the Faster Filing Act (H.R. 1809). This bill would require the VA to publically post and inform veterans about the wait times for filing claims in various forms, from the fastest method: filing a fully developed claim online; to the slowest way: filing an underdeveloped claim in paper form.

The difference between filing a fully developed claim, where an individual works with a VSO to gather their medical evidence, and submitting a paper claim without documentation is stark. The VA can turn-around a fully developed on-line claim in as little as 100 days. Compare that to the current average wait for El Paso veterans of over 400 days. If veterans are fully aware of the advantage of filing a fully developed claim, they will be more likely to do so and that is good for both the veteran and the VA. In addition, for the next two years, veterans who file an on-line fully developed claim are eligible for one year of additional retroactive benefits.

In addition to the Faster Filing Act, H.R. 2189 also included an important provision called the “Pay As You Rate” Act, which requires the VA to pay out a claim as soon as a decision is made on one of the veteran’s medical conditions. This will be helpful for veterans with complicated diagnoses or multiple ailments by allowing payment once one condition is confirmed by the VA while they process the other conditions.

Congressman O'Rourke promises to use El Paso’s position on the Veterans Affairs Committee to do all possible to fix the claims backlog and uphold our commitment to those who put their lives on the line in service to our nation.

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