Vets for Common Sense Reacts to New VBA Appts and Million-claim backlog

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Widely regarded as the most effective and honest veterans’ advocacy organization, Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) expressed cautious optimism today on news of two new Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) appointments. VCS said in a statement to Veterans Today and MAL Contends that it “remains highly concerned there are several remaining top officials at VBA who failed to resolve VBA’s million-claim backlog for a decade or longer.  In order for VBA reform to be robust and successful, several personnel changes are urgently needed.”

Said Paul Sullivan, Executive Director of Veterans for Common Sense:

Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) is pleased to learn President Barack Obama nominated a new Under Secretary for Benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

VCS looks forward to learning more about the nominee, Brigadier General Allison Hickey, USAF, Retired, and how she plans to continue VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s progressive and pragmatic reforms at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

VCS understands several new positions, such as Deputy Under Secretaries, were created recently at VBA.  We support creating the new positions as essential for VBA strategic planning and long-term coordination of several large-scale reforms intended to reduce the number of veterans waiting long periods of time for VBA to decide veterans’ disability compensation claims.

According to VA reports, more than one million veterans are now waiting, on average, five months for VBA to decide a claim.  More than 200,000 veterans are now waiting, on average, four more years for the Board of Veterans Appeals to decide an appealed claim.

Our top concern is VA’s implementation of new PTSD benefit regulations, a move strongly supported by VCS.  VA’s new PTSD rules are vital for our veterans because they provide streamlined access to healthcare and disability compensation for veterans with psychological trauma resulting from deployment to a war zone.

We urge VA Secretary Shinseki to quickly release detailed information about the number of claims filed by veterans under the new PTSD rules.  This includes the number granted (and their ratings) and the number denied each month.  We also want to know the length of time to process the claims and the accuracy of VBA’s decisions in order to determine if VA’s new rules are improving VA’s timeliness and quality.

We close with a note of caution.  VCS remains highly concerned there are several remaining top officials at VBA who failed to resolve VBA’s million-claim backlog for a decade or longer.  In order for VBA reform to be robust and successful, several personnel changes are urgently needed.

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