Franken and Walz staffers talk veteran benefits backlog billPublished by on
WORTHINGTON - Staff members from the offices of U.S. Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Rep Tim Walz met with local veteran service officers today to discuss the Quicker Benefits Delivery Act, legislation aimed at tackling the Department of Veterans Affairs benefit claims backlog.
Although a news release sent out yesterday states the backlog is forcing thousands of returning veterans to put their lives on hold for months at a time while claims are processed, Veterans Field Representative Shawn Schloesser of Walz’s office said the backlog of benefit claims is only about 20 percent Iraq and Afghanistan vets. The bulk of the backlogged claims, Schloesser said, are from Vietnam vets. As of yesterday, he added, all claims two years old have been handled, and now the focus is on one-year-old claims.
The St. Paul office is not nearly as backlogged as others in the country, he said.
County Veteran Service Officers from Nobles, Rock, Jackson, Murray and Cottonwood counties listened as Schloesser and Southern Field Representative Bruce Barnum of Sen. Al Franken’s office described the points of the proposed bill. The legislation would prohibit the VA from requiring a VA medical exam when non-VA medical evidence is competent and credible. By making stronger use of non-VA medical information, the VA would be able to process claims more quickly and resources would be freed up.
The bill would also create a third prestabilization level, so veterans discharged from active duty because of injuries or illnesses not fully healed could be rapidly awarded at least a minimum level of benefits while they continue to recover. Similarly, the bill would direct the VA to award temporary ratings for claims where evidence is sufficient to support a minimum service-connected disability rating while the claim continues to be developed. Those veterans would no longer be considered part of the backlog.
The five service officers in the room told the staff disability claims could be slow, but they have more problems with survivor claims and burial claims.