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New Report from National Council on Disability Explores Scope of and Solutions to Veterans Backlog

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nov. 12, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – In partnership with current and former service members, the National Council on Disability (NCD) – an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy – today releases “Clearing the Backlog and Facilitating Benefits for America’s Veterans.” The 80-page report includes opinions and evaluations by key stakeholders, buoyed by the insights of experts, in addressing the current state of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog. NCD thanks Paralyzed Veterans of America for numerous, invaluable contributions in preparing this report.

“In the same spirit with which Americans honor all Veterans for their service to our country, the National Council on Disability has chosen National Military Families month and the day after Veterans Day to offer these recommendations to help clear the backlog in getting necessary supports to U.S. Veterans,” said NCD member Captain Jonathan Kuniholm, USMC (Retired). “Making good on the promises made to Veterans with service-connected disabilities and health issues, financial uncertainty, and other hardships when adjusting to civilian life in a timely manner is the least that we can do for those ‘who shall have borne the battle.’ NCD hopes this report can facilitate meaningful improvements across numerous areas of concern.”

“NCD’s findings and recommendations focus on necessary actions that need to be taken to reduce the VA claims backlog,” said NCD member Janice Lehrer-Stein. “Improvements have been made, but more needs to be done. NCD recognizes the important and ongoing progress that has been made to date and remains available to assist in the collaboration of all federal agencies to find the best and most coordinated way forward.”

Sample Recommendations:

  • The Department of Defense (DoD) should adopt a data-storage standard compatible with VA Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) to ease the transfer (and shared use) of medical records information.
  • Congress should ensure that DoD’s Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System remains accessible to veterans, Guardsmen and Reservists with active service, and Title 38 accredited representatives who develop and submit claims on behalf of veterans (with appropriate privacy protections and veteran authorizations).
  • Congress should revise the Veterans Claims Assistance Act (VCAA) to strengthen due-process provisions, veterans’ rights to self-determination including control of claims and the scope of VA’s obligation to develop timely and accurate benefit determinations in a technology-driven 21st century context.
  • VA should broadly enforce the Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) directive in order to reduce the number of unnecessary Compensation & Pension examinations.
  • Congress should provide adequate funding to finalize, implement, and maintain the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) and supportive technologies.

To read a full copy of the report, please visit /publications/2013/11122013.

An official website of the National Council on Disability