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Begich Urges VA to Continue Focus on Fixing Claims Backlog

Too Many Veterans Still Struggle with Delays

While acknowledging progress has been made, U.S. Senator Mark Begich continues to press the Veterans Administration (VA) to reduce the backlog of claims for veterans from Alaska and across the country.

Begich’s latest push came during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing Wednesday when he pressed top VA officials to continue to decrease the long wait times that have kept many veterans in a bureaucratic holding pattern.

“In the Alaska region things are improving,” said Sen. Begich.  “Even though we are making improvements and some veterans are finally getting relief from what can be a red tape nightmare, there are still plenty of challenges.”

Sen. Begich provided examples of calls that his office has received from veterans who desperately needed help to secure their benefits and described delays because of coding problems, lost paperwork and misdiagnosis.  Sen. Begich thanked the Alaska VA for their responsiveness to inquiries from his office on behalf of Alaska veterans. 

Sen. Begich serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Senate Committee on Appropriations.  In June, Sen. Begich fought to keep funding for veterans services in the Fiscal Year 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which included several Alaska-specific provisions to address the Veterans Administration claims backlog and expand access to health care for rural veterans.  The bill would provide resources to upgrade IT systems to process claims faster, provide new training for the VA workforce and would require regular reports to Congress on the progress and establish quality review teams to ensure appropriate processing of claims.

The legislation was developed after a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting in May, when Sen. Begich grilled Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki and Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Chuck Hagel about claims languishing in the VA system. 

Sec. Shinseki has set goals of eliminating the backlog by 2015 and of processing compensation claims so no veteran has to wait more than 125 days for a quality decision on that claim. 

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