WASHINGTON, June 12 – Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) welcomed assurances today that the Department of Veterans Affairs has made “significant progress” and is “at a tipping point” in reducing a massive backlog of claims for disability benefits.
The assurances came from Thomas Murphy, the VA’s director of compensation services, during testimony before Sanders’ committee. Murphy said the backlog is shrinking and on track to meet VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s goal of processing all claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy by the end of 2015. “I honestly believe we’re going to hit that number,” Murphy said.
Murphy was responding to a question by Sanders about his legislation to require public reports on VA’s progress toward reducing the backlog.
Sanders welcomed the news and applauded Shinseki for setting a “very ambitious goal.” While the caseload decline is encouraging, Sanders said there is still much to be done so that VA can meet its goal of eliminating the claims backlog. “The current backlog is unacceptable and this committee will do everything possible to make sure the VA achieves its goal. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely,” Sanders said.
There are some 851,000 veterans awaiting answers on compensation claims for illnesses or injuries incurred during their service. Two-thirds of the claims have been waiting more than 125 days for an answer, but that number has begun in recent weeks to decline. Sanders called the claims backlog one of the major issues at the VA.
In the nine weeks since the end of March, VA’s disability claims backlog has experienced a steady decrease. The turnaround is thanks in part to an initiative by Shinseki to transform the way VA processes claims. VA’s transition from a cumbersome paper-based process to a digital process speeds the delivery of benefits. Sanders congratulated Shinseki for undertaking the transition to digital records his predecessors had neglected.
In order to help VA accomplish its ambitious goals, Sanders introduced the Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2013, which would provide long-term reforms that would improve VA’s claims process from start to finish – from the regional offices to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
The bill also would enable Congress to conduct more comprehensive oversight of VA’s progress and transformation by requiring VA to publicly report, on a quarterly basis, information on both VA’s quarterly goals and actual production.
As an increasing number of our servicemembers return home and transition to civilian life, it is especially critical that charitable organizations supporting them act as good stewards of the American people’s goodwill and generosity towards our veterans. If you’re considering giving to a charity that supports veterans, please visit
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The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, championed by Senator Murray, expands education and training opportunities for servicemembers and veterans, and provides tax credits for employers who hire veterans. Below are fact sheets about some of the programs that this new law created.
SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
Russell Building Room 418
VISITORS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Individuals who are planning to attend a Committee hearing or meeting and require an auxiliary aid or service should contact the Committee at 202-224-9126. So as to best enable staff to make arrangements, please call at least 3 business days in advance.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs holds most of its hearings in the Russell Building in room 418. However, we occasionally schedule hearings in public hearing rooms in the Hart and
There is no parking available to the public on the Capitol grounds. The best drop-off location for
There are metal detectors at each entrance so be prepared to empty your pockets of electronic devices, change, keys and all other items that cause concern at metal detectors. There is also the option of being “wanded” manually rather than going through the metal detector at the door.
All of the public hearing rooms in the Senate are wheelchair accessible. Please see the information on the following pages to assist you in finding the wheelchair accessible entrance(s) to the Russell, Dirksen, and
**In case of an emergency requiring you to evacuate during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, the Committee staff has been trained to assist, and will help you reach the designated evacuation site.
The Russell Building
This entrance is the closest wheelchair accessible entrance to the hearing room in106 Dirksen.
Once you have entered the
Updated June 2012