McKinley Introduces Bill to Ensure Veterans Have Timely Access to VA Benefits

Addresses backlog of current VA claims, corrects process for future claims

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman David B. McKinley (WV-01) introduced a bill that would address the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) claims backlog and ensure veterans are provided with access to their earned benefits without undue delay.

“Meeting with veterans across West Virginia over the years, I’ve heard too many stories of the long wait times, some as long as years, for VA medical claims to be addressed or resolved. It is unacceptable that the men and women who have made incredible sacrifices in defense of our freedom are waiting this long to access the benefits they were promised,” said Rep. McKinley.

“This legislation would repair the broken appeals process, move to eliminate the claims backlog, while adding more resources dedicated to process future VA clams. We have an obligation to support the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country. This legislation will make sure they can access the benefits they deserve,” said Rep. McKinley.

Read the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2022.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Ranking Member Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the companion bill in the Senate.


Background
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Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2022 would bolster employee recruitment for the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and improve VA’s scheduling of veterans’ medical disability exams by increasing communication between contractors conducting disability exams, Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), and attorneys assisting veterans with their claims.

Among its many provisions, the bill will:

  • Require the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to set up a competitive internship program to attract high-performing law students, and a competitive “honors program” to provide certain incentives for high-performing entry-level attorneys;
  • Enhance VA’s Disability Benefits Questionnaires to help veterans save time during the claims process by allowing them to fill out the forms in advance;
  • Require VA contractors to contact a veteran’s representative, in addition to the veteran, when establishing contact with a veteran to schedule an exam;
  • Instruct VA to improve the Department’s outreach efforts and work with veterans groups to educate veterans on how contract disability exams are scheduled; and
  • Authorize the Department to provide instant, electronic notification of claims decisions—allowing for quicker delivery of benefits, especially amidst COVID-related mail delays.

Numerous VSOs applauded this effort to improve the claims process and provide veterans with timely benefits:

  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
  • Vietnam Veterans of America
  • Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
  • Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)
  • Wounded Warrior Project
  • National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO)
  • The American Legion

Rep. McKinley has also introduced and supported numerous bills that address issues facing Veterans, including:

  • The “VCR Act,” (H.R. 1510), which would require the Dept. of VA to report on its policies and procedures relating to the usage and maintenance of video cameras for patient safety and law enforcement at VA medical facilities. The bill was signed into law on Nov. 23, 2021.
  • The National Suicide Hotline Enhancement Act (H.R. 2345), which established a three-digit hotline, “988,” for suicide prevention. The bill was signed into law on Aug. 14, 2018
  • Honoring our PACT Act of 2021 (H.R.3967), addressing health care needs by presuming service-connected exposure to toxic substances during military service.
  • Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2021 (H.R. 1836), which rectifies the disparity of the National Guard and Reserve not receiving the same GI Bill benefits as servicemembers despite doing the same jobs with the same risks.
  • Ensuring Veterans’ Smooth Transition (EVEST) Act 2021 (H.R. 4673), which automatically enrolls eligible servicemembers in VA healthcare during their transition out of the military. Veterans would be notified they were enrolled and what benefits are available to them. Once enrolled, the veteran can also choose to opt-out if they do not want to receive healthcare.

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