Veterans Task Force Would Bring Backlog to Zero – And Keep it There

Veterans Task Force Would Bring Backlog to Zero – And Keep it There

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

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Veterans Task Force Would Bring Backlog to Zero – And Keep it There

IAVA testifies at Congressional hearing in support of Chairman Miller’s legislation to create an independent task force to bring sustainable solutions to fix the VA disability claims backlog

WASHINGTON – (June 28, 2013) – An independent task force would determine what caused the VA disability claims backlog and advance solutions needed to end the backlog, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will testify before a Congressional panel on Friday. Alex Nicholson, IAVA’s Legislative Director, today is appearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Nicholson spoke in support of H.R. 2189, introduced by Chairman Jeff Miller, and other legislation that would help bring the VA disability claims backlog to zero. Nicholson’s full testimony can be found here.

According to IAVA’s testimony, an independent task force is needed to evaluate the underlying causes of the VA disability claims backlog, facilitate coordinated remedies to those causes, and help bring outside expertise to bear on the problems the VA has encountered that have resulted in the backlog growing as high as it did and persisting for as long as it has. The task force would not impede the ongoing work of the VA to address problems that have already been identified. It would augment and support the VA’s ongoing work, contribute innovative ideas to that effort, report on its findings early and often, and increase transparency throughout the process. 

“We are glad that the VA has implemented temporary reforms to bring down the backlog. In recent months, the VA has moved to an all-electronic filing system, increased access to information, expanded staffing bandwidth and training, and improved internal coordination,” Nicholson said. “Yet, the VA itself admits that challenges remain to respond to the hundreds of thousands of veterans still waiting for answers. A task force would only help speed up the work of ending the backlog by ensuring that the VA gets all the information, resources, and expertise it needs to meet its goals.” 

Nicholson added: “The task force would also look ahead to identify future challenges so that we never again wind up in this unfortunate and unnecessary situation.”

Earlier this week, the VA announced there are over 833,000 veterans waiting for decisions on their disability claims, with 547,000 of those backlogged. To put a human face on the veterans who are waiting, IAVA last week launched a new digital tool, “The Wait We Carry.” The site, which was created with support from Knight Foundation and can be found at thewaitwecarry.org, allows users to find real stories of veterans in their communities who are stuck in the backlog.

“Those who find themselves in need of benefits and care from the VA are more than just files stacked on a desk in a government building. They are real people – veterans who have served our nation and have earned these benefits,” Nicholson said. “The response to The Wait We Carry has been incredible, as people across the country feel a duty to push for an end to the VA backlog. That is why we have to advance solutions like Chairman Miller’s legislation.” 

Since March, IAVA has fought to keep the backlog in the national spotlight, to ensure that leading officials take the necessary steps to bring the backlog to zero, and to support veterans stuck in the system. IAVA has also put forth for a set of recommendations ending the backlog: http://iava.org/backlogsolutions. More background on the issue and IAVA’s leadership can be found at http://iava.org/endthevabacklog

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (http://www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. 

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