SOUTHERN ILLINOIS — An Energy man’s struggles with getting his veteran disability claim processed in a timely manner has prompted U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart to introduce new legislation to reduce the backlog of claims plaguing the Veterans Administration.
Enyart, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the Veterans Backlog Reduction Act, which seeks to ensure that future veterans’ disability claims are handled in a timely manner.
Enyart was joined in his support of the bill by disabled veteran Michael Boren of Energy. Boren is a 16-year veteran of the National Guard who suffers from back and nerve damage as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to his deployment in Afghanistan.
Boren contacted Enyart for assistance with the VA in getting his disability claims processed in a timely manner. Ultimately, Enyart’s office helped to get a disability determination for Boren after a 19-month delay.
In a conference call Wednesday, Enyart said the current claims backlog at the Veterans Administration creates a severe hardship for many disabled veterans like Boren.
There are currently more than 900,000 disability claims cases from veterans waiting to be processed, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. The average time to process a claim at the VA is now 272 days, or approximately nine months, according to the Center. In many cases, the wait is sometimes more than a year, Enyart said.
“These men and women are rightfully entitled to prompt adjudication and payment for their claims,” Enyart said. “Often these disabled veterans are unable to work because of their injuries, and they are suffering without income while waiting on the VA to process their claims.”
Enyart’s legislation would pay partial provisional benefits for claimants whose cases are not adjudicated within 125 days of their submittal. In cases where the claim is judged valid after 125 days, the remainder of the veteran’s disability benefit would then be paid to the claimant. In cases where the claim is denied after 125 days, the claimant would not have to return the partial claim unless fraud, misrepresentation or bad faith is proven in the course of filing the claim.
“The goal of the bill is not to pay out provisional benefits to disabled vets,” Enyart said. “The goal is to get these claims processed in a timely manner. And it’s my hope that this legislation gives the VA one more reason to clean up its act and speed up the process.”