Legislation cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, which will help address the significant claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs, has been signed into law by the president.
“It is my honor to represent 85,000 veterans in Southern Arizona – men and women who have stepped forward to serve their nation,” Barber said today. “I am deeply committed to ensuring that veterans quickly and efficiently get the assistance and benefits they have earned. And this law takes us closer to that goal.”
The National Defense Authorization Act, which has been signed by the president, contains provisions of the VA Claims, Operations and Records Efficiency Act, which Barber cosponsored.
The legislation 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 Pentagon to send the complete records, which DOD currently processes on paper rather than electronically.
The claims backlog is a growing and serious problem. As of Dec. 28, 2013, the VA had 685,931 claims pending. Of those, 395,139 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, with the VA receiving more than 1 million claims annually.
Barber’s congressional website includes a comprehensive Veterans’ Resource Center with an extensive list of contacts for veterans seeking employment, medical services, housing and many other services.
Barber is a member of the Veterans Jobs Caucus and the House Armed Services Committee. About 1 of every 6 adults Barber represents is a veteran. Since he took office more than 1½ years ago, Barber has been deeply involved in legislation affecting veterans. Here is some of what he has done:
He is an original cosponsor of the Veteran Employment Transition Act that will provide employers with a tax credit for hiring recently discharged veterans.
He sponsored the Veterans Transportation Service Act that will make permanent the authority of the VA to transport individuals to and from VA facilities for treatment, rehabilitation, counseling and care.
He cosponsored the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act to expand access to housing assistance to injured, low-income wartime veterans.
He cosponsored the Protecting Veterans’ Pensions Act, that will target financial companies that take advantage of veterans by selling them estate planning services and other financial products that prevent veterans from accessing their assets.