WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a hearing today on the VA budget, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki agreed that reforming the VA disability claims system must be a top priority.
“I am encouraged by the Administration’s commitment to add thousands of staff to process veterans’ disability claims, but we should be candid: it appears that the situation will get worse before it gets better,” said Akaka. “It will take years and significant resources to fully train new VA claims staff on the complex existing procedures. We need to bring systemic change to the current process if VA is to provide veterans with the timeliness and accuracy they deserve.”
The President’s budget proposes $125 billion for VA in the coming fiscal year. This is an increase of nearly $11 billion from the previous year, including a $4 billion increase in VA’s medical care account. The President’s budget would also provide funds to increase the number of Veterans Benefits Administration staff by more than 4,000 above last year’s level (including staff added due to the Recovery Act).
Following today’s hearing, Members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee will provide the Senate Budget Committee with their views and estimates for VA’s budget. Views and estimates are a formal part of the federal budget process, in which Congressional committees recommend funding levels for programs and activities under their legislative jurisdiction. (For the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s jurisdiction, click here.) The House and Senate Budget Committees review these recommendations when formulating the proposed Budget Resolution for the coming fiscal year.
February 26, 2010