A backlog of veterans benefits claims in Texas and beyond is getting attention thanks to new legislation filed by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Cornyn, a member of the Armed Services Committee, filed an amendment Wednesday to the defense authorization bill to address the backlog of disability claims within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Cornyn’s bill will require the VA to implement Texas’ model on a national scale, helping to alleviate the backlog and streamline the claims process.
“In Texas, I am pleased to say the Texas Veterans Commission has taken a state-level initiative to clear out the backlog. My amendment would help with that same initiative on a national scale,” Cornyn said during a recent media conference call.
The Texas Veterans Commission recently formed a partnership with the VA to assist Texas veterans whose claims are backlogged, and to help veterans making new claims to file fully developed ones, which is important in shortening the processing time.
“It goes without saying there are vets that have served the ultimate devotion and they deserve to be treated fairly,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn’s plan of attack on the backlog dovetails what Denton County Veterans Service Officer Paul Bastaich has been saying is necessary to address the problem.
“It’s being given several different names, but it’s all the same thing. Let’s put the claim together, complete and submit it to the VA so the federal government can grant the benefits in a timely manner,” he said. “If you do it without the assistance of a veterans service officer, you will mess it up. You will make mistakes and it will get stuck in the bureaucratic red tape of the system.”
Bastaich also noted the need for more veterans service officers like himself, who have claims experience, to be given the credentials and training to help process claims.
He told of one veteran who went to the Veterans Services Office recently for help. The man injured his knee while on active duty in Afghanistan. Upon returning home and finding out how long the benefits wait was likely to be, he went to Baylor Medical Center and paid for the knee operation on his own and thought he could be reimbursed by the veterans office.
That didn’t work.
Bastaich said the veteran is receiving service now, but his case was indicative of where the issue stands with a number of veterans getting out of the armed forces.
“I used to be that way,” Bastaich said. “I was the ignorant veteran. I did not know how to file my claim. A lot boils down to education and getting the word out that offices like mine exist and we’re out to expedite the process. The best way to get the backlog reduced is to use the fully developed claims process and more veterans service officers to [process] claims.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.