Former Illinois Guard Adjutant General Introduces New Bill to Speed Veterans Benefits

A new bill in Congress would force the Veterans Administration to provide at least partial compensation to veterans whose claims have been pending at least 125 days.

The 125-day mark is significant because that is the average claims processing time the Department of Veterans Affairs projected it would meet by 2015.

The bill, dubbed the Veterans Backlog Reduction Act, is sponsored by Representative Bill Enyart (D-Illinois). If it becomes law, The VA would have to pay 40 percent of the projected claim amount until the claim is actually adjudicated. Additionally, it would require the VA to pay the balance of the benefits due if the claim was deemed valid. The veteran would not have to repay any benefits advanced on claims not deemed valid unless the veteran committed fraud or other misrepresentation.

“These men and women are rightfully entitled to prompt adjudication and payment for their claims,” Enyart said. “Often these disabled veterans are unable to work because of their injuries and they are suffering without income while waiting on the VA to process their claims.”

“The sad fact is that the VA is not honoring its commitment to our veterans today,” Enyart said on the House floor. “Too many veterans… are threatened with home foreclosure, having their cars repossessed, having their credit cards cut off – all because the VA can’t get its act together. And despite promises from the VA to reduce the backlog, just yesterday, we learned the backlog is increasing, and the VA hasn’t met a single one of its benchmarks.

Enyart served in the U.S. Air Force, and then the Illinois Army National Guard. He ended his military career in 2012, retiring as a two-star general, as the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard.

The House version of the bill, H.R. 1739, has 22 cosponsors, all Democrats.

Over in the Senate, Al Franken (D – Minnesota) and Tim Walz (D – Minnesota) have also introduced similar legislation, the Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, earlier this month. As yet, the bill has no co-sponsors. It was just referred to committee on May 13th.

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