May 12: VCS Asks You to Contact Your Representative About Supporting HR 5892, a Bill to Reform VA Claims

May 12, 2008 – VCS Supports Effort to Take Action Supporting All Our Veterans

Please contact your U.S. Representative today and urge him or her to vote in favor of the Veterans Disability Claims Modernization Act of 2008 (HR 5892). This important legislation will essentially direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to modernize the disability benefits claims processing system of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure the accurate and timely delivery of compensation to veterans and their families and survivors. H.R. 5892 was referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on April 24, 2008.  VCS supports the bill, and we testified about these issues in 2007 and 2008 because VA desperately needs reforms.

VCS asks you to use the web site of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to please e-mail your House Member today.

On April 30, 2008, the bill was reported out of Committee to the full House. The bill contains a number of favorable provisions, such as:

* clarifies “combat veterans” for the purpose of service connection for disabilities incurred in combat, as those veterans who served in a “combat theatre of operations;”

* requires improvements in VA’s work credit, quality assurance, and management systems in order to improve accuracy and accountability in decisions affecting disability compensation;

* implements enhanced training, including certification, for VA employees responsible for processing claims;

* requires VA to immediately assign temporary, partial ratings for severe disabilities that are indisputably related to military service;

* allows for substitution by surviving spouses as claimants when a veteran spouse dies while a claim is pending; and

* mandates that the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims must address issues raised by an appellant in court decisions rather than remanding or denying an appeal without addressing such issues.

This issue in the bill concerning the clarification of who qualifies as a combat veteran (section 101) is currently the biggest legislative obstacle presented by H.R. 5892. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this program will cost approximately one billion dollars over a 10-year period. This presents a problem with PAYGO, which is a congressional rule mandating that legislation with budgetary expenditures beyond that provided by the current budget be funded by offsets elsewhere in the budget.

The problem with the PAYGO rule is that Congress currently funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan outside of PAYGO, thereby not requiring budgetary offsets to fund the war. Therefore, it is DAV’s position that legislation containing provisions that will improve VA’s system for compensating veterans with disabilities caused by war should also be exempt from the PAYGO rules. However, we need your help to carry this message to Congress so that this landmark legislation is not blocked because of technicalities.

Please contact your Representative immediately to urge him or her to vote in passage of the Veterans Disability Claims Modernization Act of 2008. Please take a moment to send a prepared email to your members of Congress by going to this link.

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