Larsen also pushing measures to improve veterans healthcare, education
With more than 700,000 veteran disability claims pending, Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, voted October 28, 2013 for several bills to cut the backlog and get veterans the benefits they earned.
"Tens of thousands of veterans across Northwest Washington served our nation honorably. Too many now bear the wounds of war" Larsen said. "We owe these veterans the benefits they have earned, but too many of their claims are sitting in a backlog for months or even years.
"When I traveled across Northwest Washington to meet with veterans this summer, I heard from many of them that cutting the claims backlog needs to be a top priority. Over the last year, the VA has done a commendable job by cutting the backlog by a third. We need to build on that progress, and these bills will do that."
The bills passed by House of RepresentativesOctober 28 include provisions that will:
Establish a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) commission to propose recommendations to the disability claims process;
Pay veterans more quickly by paying them as their individual conditions are adjudicated;
Provide veterans with information that could speed their claims;
Strengthen accountability by requiring the VA to regularly provide to the public information on claims process and performance;
Take steps to ensure that the VA has the information it needs from other agencies to accurately process claims quickly;
Encourage the VA to expand the use of automation when processing claims;
Speed up claims by allowing veterans' medical exams to be performed by doctors outside the VA system;
Cut the processing time for veterans appealing their disability rating decision by streamlining paperwork;
Extend an advisory committee on improving education and job training programs for veterans.
In addition to his support for these measures, Larsen has put forward several other initiatives to help veterans.
Earlier this year, Larsen successfully attached language to a VA funding bill that directs the VA to update the Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities according to up-to-date, medically accurate standards. The change was driven by a Clinton, Wash. resident who wrote to Larsen asking for assistance when the disability rating she received for her fibromyalgia was not consistent with standard medical assessments.
Working with Sen. Patty Murray, Larsen introduced a bill last year to improve health care for female veterans and provide advanced fertilization treatment for veterans with service-connected disabilities who are trying to start families. The VA enacted a portion of that bill earlier this year, and Larsen has secured 51 additional cosponsors for the measure in the House.
Larsen also introduced the bipartisan Veterans Education Transparency (VET) Act, which would allow colleges to access information about veterans’ educational benefits so they can provide better counseling to veterans.
Larse'’s staff in Everett and Bellingham work one-on-one to assist veterans with their benefits claims, having completed more than 60 cases in the last year.
His office also established a veterans skills-to-jobs initiative that works with veterans, local colleges and employers to translate veterans’ military experience to skills demanded by the private sector.