In a legislative victory for veterans, Kirkpatrick’s VA CORE amendment included in Defense bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – VA CORE, the bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., to help tackle the substantial claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs, today passed the House of Representatives as an amendment to HR 1960, the Department of Defense reauthorization bill. The passage is Kirkpatrick’s first legislative victory for veterans during the 113th Congress, building on her veterans-related accomplishments from the 111th Congress. She is Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
“From the moment I took office, I began hearing from men and women struggling with the VA backlog, and I promised to fight for them,” Kirkpatrick said. “Today’s vote is a victory for veterans across District One, from Casa Grande to the White Mountains, and from Oro Valley to Flagstaff and the Navajo Nation. And it’s a victory for veterans everywhere who have sacrificed so much for our country. This is an important step toward eliminating the claims backlog so veterans can receive the care and resources they deserve.” (audio file attached)
VA CORE is the first successfully passed legislation out of a 10-bill package introduced this spring by members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to help the Department of Veterans’ Affairs accomplish its goal to eliminate the backlog by 2015.
The VA Claims, Operations and Records Efficiency amendment directs the Department of Defense to provide the complete service treatment records of veterans to the Department of Veterans Affairs in an efficient, electronic format. Currently, the average veteran waits more than 250 days for a decision on a claim. About 175 days of that time is the VA waiting for the DOD to send the complete records, which DOD currently processes on paper rather than electronically.
The VA CORE amendment will:
- Codify a plan both agencies agreed upon in February, in which Defense begins the immediate transfer of complete and certified service treatment records to VA, and electronic capabilities are in place by the end of 2013.
- Require the Department of Defense to provide certified, complete and electronic records to the Department of Veterans Affairs within 90 days of military discharge or release.
- The claims backlog is a growing and serious problem. As of March 30, 2013, VA had 885,068 claims pending. Of those, 613,876 claims were pending more than 125 days, at which point they are considered to be backlogged.
- Veterans are filing disability compensation claims at historically high levels. VA now receives well over a million claims every year, and the numbers continue to grow.
- The current paper-based claims system was established following World War I. Since then, statute changes made the process more complex, but no administration invested in updating the system. It was not until 2009 that our nation finally invested heavily in modernizing the claims processing system.
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About Ann Kirkpatrick
Arizona born and raised, Ann Kirkpatrick resides in Flagstaff, and her earliest roots are found in Eastern Arizona in McNary on the White Mountain Apache Nation. Her father ran a general store and her mother was a schoolteacher. Ann graduated from Blue Ridge High School in the White Mountains and then worked her way through the University of Arizona, earning a bachelor’s degree and then a law degree there. After earning her law degree, Ann served the people of Greater Arizona in a variety of positions. In 1980, she became Coconino County’s first female Deputy County Attorney, cracking down on criminals and protecting neighborhoods and families in Northern Arizona. She later served as Sedona’s City Attorney. In November 2004, Ann’s neighbors elected her to the Arizona House of Representatives to represent Legislative District 2, which includes Flagstaff and the Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, and San Juan Southern Paiute Nations. At the state Capitol, Ann championed fiscal responsibility and quality education. During her 2008-10 term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ann’s results stood out in Congress, seeing more of her bills and amendments signed into law than almost any other freshman representative. Ann’s hard work created jobs, helped small businesses, hired more border patrol agents, and protected veterans and seniors in Greater Arizona. In November 2012, the voters of Congressional District 1 elected Kirkpatrick to once again represent them in Congress. She serves on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.