FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     Contact:    Kawika Riley (Veterans’ Affairs)

June 22, 2010                                                 (202) 224-9126 


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation today to make much-needed improvements to VA’s disability claims processing.  VA provides disability compensation to approximately 3.1 million veterans across the nation. 

“VA’s system to provide veterans with disability compensation is well intended, but it is broken.  This bill will move the Department closer to fulfilling its obligation to provide every eligible veteran with timely and accurate disability compensation,” said Akaka.  

As Chairman, Akaka has held a series of hearings on improving the veterans’ disability compensation system (to view the Committee’s hearings click here).  The Committee will hold a hearing to review disability claims processing on July 1, at which time witnesses will testify about Akaka’s legislation. 

The Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2010 (S.3517) would make various changes to the way VA processes disability compensation claims, including provisions to: 

  • Set up a process to fast-track claims that have been fully developed;
  • Help veterans with multiple disability claims by allowing VA to provide partial disability ratings; and
  • Provide that the Department give equal deference to the medical opinions of a veteran’s non-VA doctor.  

The bill would also establish a test program at several Regional Offices replacing VA’s method for identifying musculoskeletal disabilities.  Compensation under the pilot would be based on a functional assessment of limitations due to the disability, such as standing, walking or lifting, and would take into account the severity, frequency and duration of symptoms of the disability.  To identify disabilities, the pilot would use the common language of the International Classification of Diseases, rather than VA’s current Rating Schedule.    

To read Senator Akaka’s statement in the Congressional Record introducing the bill, click here: LINK


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Robert O’Dowd served in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings during 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. While at MCAS El Toro for two years, O'Dowd worked and slept in a Radium 226 contaminated work space in Hangar 296 in MWSG-37, the most industrialized and contaminated acreage on the base. Robert is a two time cancer survivor and disabled veteran. Robert graduated from Temple University in 1973 with a bachelor’s of business administration, majoring in accounting, and worked with a number of federal agencies, including the EPA Office of Inspector General and the Defense Logistics Agency. After retiring from the Department of Defense, he teamed up with Tim King of Salem-News.com to write about the environmental contamination at two Marine Corps bases (MCAS El Toro and MCB Camp Lejeune), the use of El Toro to ship weapons to the Contras and cocaine into the US on CIA proprietary aircraft, and the murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow and others who were a threat to blow the whistle on the illegal narcotrafficking activity. O'Dowd and King co-authored BETRAYAL: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up. The book is available as a soft cover copy and eBook from Amazon.com. See: http://www.amazon.com/Betrayal-Exposure-Marines-Government-Cover-Up/dp/1502340003.