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Veterans bill holds promise

We realize there will be no quick fix for area veterans who are frustrated by a backlog of claims that has made the process of getting health and financial benefits longer and more frustrating than ever before, but a couple of recent developments are promising.

The backlog of claims in Texas and beyond is getting attention, thanks to new legislation filed by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Cornyn, a member of the Armed Services Committee, recently filed an amendment to the defense authorization bill to address the backlog of disability claims within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Cornyn’s amendment will require the VA to implement a program that was recently launched in Texas. The Texas Veterans Commission has 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 — an important step in shortening the processing time.

In a news release announcing the new legislation, Cornyn said his bill will require the VA to implement Texas’ model on a national scale in an effort to alleviate the backlog and streamline the claims process.

One reason we are optimistic about the announcement is that the plan fits with what Denton County Veterans Service Officer Paul Bastaich has been saying is necessary to address the problem. That’s important because we typically find that those in the trenches are more familiar with real-world problems than elected officials in Austin or Washington.

And the backlog of veterans benefits claims is a monumental problem, one that demands more than lip service from politicians. We need to address this problem and find a solution as quickly as we can.

Hopefully, Cornyn’s legislation will help accomplish that and other elected officials will follow his lead and get involved in seeking a resolution to what Cornyn labels a “national disgrace.”

We agree with Cornyn’s description of the problem. The backlog is proof that far too many veterans are being underserved or ignored altogether. These men and women have fulfilled their duties to our nation, and they should not have to doubt that the VA and other government agencies will do the same.

Bastaich also noted the need for more veterans service officers like himself, who have claims experience, to help reduce the backlog of claims. Trying to file a claim without the guidance of a veterans service officer, he emphasized, will result in mistakes that will likely get the claim stuck in bureaucratic red tape.

Veterans’ frustration with the system is understandable, but as Bastaich told us, the best way to get the backlog reduced is to use the fully developed claims process. A lot boils down to education and getting the word out that he and other veterans service officers are there to help.

We don’t know if Cornyn’s amendment will have the desired effect, but requiring a national program using the teamwork concept being tried here in Texas to help veterans is a step in the right direction.