Bill seeks to speed some disability payments

A bill now in the Senate would require the Veterans Affairs Department to modernize its disability claims process for injured service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), seeks to shorten the time it takes for severely injured veterans to receive initial disability payments and promote more use of information technology in the disability claims process.

The Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act, introduced Aug. 1,  is the Senate companion measure to legislation, H.R. 5892, the House passed unanimously in April, Schumer noted.

The Senate bill would require VA to modernize claims record-keeping by implementing comprehensive information system upgrades, such as converting claims records to electronic formats, in a year. VA has said it plans to modernize its disability claims process.

The Government Accountability Office found in February that VA has taken steps to improve its claims processing, but it said the department needs to re-examine the structure and division of labor among field offices and update its disability rating schedule to reflect today’s labor market.

The Senate measure also would remove a major obstacle to veterans quickly receiving benefits for undisputed severe injuries, related to their military service, its sponsors said. Veterans now must wait until an evaluation of all  their injuries is made before they may receive any benefits, the measure's sponsors said. Under the legislation, veterans could receive benefits for undisputed severe injuries while they await the resolution of their other claims.

Also under the legislation, an Office of Survivor Relations would assist family members of deceased veterans to continue the claims process for survivors. Currently, family members must restart the process.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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