One piece of legislation considered at a Jan. 27 House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing would stop the Department of Veterans Affairs from effectively eliminating informal claims from its benefits system. Such claims can be submitted to VA without using its standardized forms for traditional claims.
The bill, H.R.245, would override a proposed rule change that VA promulgated last year. That change would require all initial disability claims to be filed on specific forms (paper or digital). Any claims submitted on non-standard paper would not be processed.
The American Legion supports the measure and expressed concern in its written testimony that "VA is sacrificing veterans' choices and options in the interest of making the claims system easier for VA to work with. However, the disability claims system does not exist to serve VA; it exists to serve the veterans disabled through service to their country."
If VA no longer recognized traditional informal claims, the Legion stated that "VA eliminates the opportunity to create an effective date at the point where the veteran opts to pursue a disability claim."
Another Legion-supported bill considered at the hearing was H.R. 216, "The Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Planning and Reform Act." The measure's provisions include:
- Future-Years Program that would indicate VA's expected expenses over a five-year period.
- Quadrennial Veterans Review to begin in fiscal 2017 that would examine "the commitments of the United States to veterans and a determination of what resources are necessary to deliver on those commitments."
- Designating a chief strategy officer to serve as the VA Secretary's principal advisor on long-range strategic planning.
- A study to be conducted on the functions and organizational structure of the VA Secretary's office and the VA in general.
Another Legion-supported bill discussed at the hearing was H.R. 280, authorizing the VA Secretary "to recoup bonuses and awards paid to employees of (VA)." To read The American Legion's written testimony, click here.