Benefits Might Come Easier for Disabled Veterans

Daily Herald

July 30, 2008 – U.S. Rep. Bill Foster was in Batavia Monday to announce his cosponsorship of a bill designed to improve the claims process for veterans seeking disability benefits.

Speaking at a news conference at his office on River Street, Foster said the bill, known as the Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act, would “reduce the bureaucratic horror stories that have become all too common” under the Department of Veterans Affairs’ current claims processing system.

The bill, which goes to the House for a vote today, would require immediate compensation for veterans with undisputed, service-related disabilities and also would set a one-year timetable for implementing new software and technological upgrades expected to simplify the claims process, which is largely paper-based.

“We need to bring claims processing into the 21st Century,” said Foster, a Geneva Democrat who is running against Sugar Grove dairy magnate Jim Oberweis in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District in November. “These are benefits our veterans have earned, and they shouldn’t have to struggle through the current system in place.”

In addition, the bill allows eligible survivors of disabled veterans to keep their places “in line” should the service member died before a claim is processed completely, Foster’s office said. A presumed “glitch” in the current system forces relatives of deceased to essentially start over the process from the beginning, Foster said.

According to the bill, there are nearly 650,000 claims pending today; about a quarter of them have been backlogged for six months. The veterans affairs office predicts the total number of claims will surpass 1 million by the end of fiscal 2008.

Foster said the cost of implementing the bill would be “near zero” once it begins counteracting “inefficiencies” under the current system. It is one of several bills involving veterans assistance that Foster has supported since taking office after a special election in February. He said he expects the bill to receive enough House support to pass easily.

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