Mikulski Urges Bush to Increase Funding For Veteran's Benefits to Reduce Claims Backlog - Southern Maryland Headline News

Mikulski Urges Bush to Increase Funding For Veteran's Benefits to Reduce Claims Backlog

WASHINGTON – Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today joined a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues to urge President Bush to help the Veteran’s Benefits Administration (VBA) Compensation and Pension Service tackle its growing backlog of claims by providing adequate funding in his FY 2008 budget. In this past year alone, claims submitted to the VBA have increased nearly 17 percent, adding significantly to the VBA’s backlog and causing a delay in providing benefits to America’s veterans and their families. The President is expected to send his budget to Congress in early February.

“Our service men and women are fighting everyday on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to keep our nation safe. They shouldn’t have to battle their government for the benefits they deserve,” said Senator Mikulski. “Promises made to our veterans must be promises kept. They represent America’s payment of a debt we owe our brave veterans for their service – a debt that can never be fully repaid. We can do this by giving them the same quality of service they gave us, and by providing them with the care they deserve. That’s why I work hard to make sure veterans have access to the resources they were promised and remain strong in my commitment to veterans’ programs and services.”

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to respectfully request that you give the appropriate priority to the needs of our nation’s veterans in your upcoming Fiscal Year 2008 budget submission to Congress. In doing so, we urge you to provide adequate funding for the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Compensation and Pension Service. This funding is critical in providing the VBA with the additional staff, and resources needed to overcome its increasing backlog of pending claims.

According to a recent VBA Workload Report, over the past year the total number of pending compensation and pension claims increased nearly 17 percent, from 517,574 to 604,308. With an aging veterans population and more servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of pending claims will undoubtedly continue to rise. Unfortunately, this increase, coupled with a lack of resources, has left the VBA with an unacceptably large claims backlog that has caused undue hardships for disabled veterans and their families across the country.

The increasing number and complexity of claims filed makes it particularly crucial for the VBA to be able to increase the number of permanent full-time staff dedicated to this task. While an increase in staff would increase the timeliness of claims, we also recognize that it is equally as important to dedicate additional resources toward improving the quality, accuracy, and consistency of claims processing. This will require a greater investment in technology, training resources and skills certification.

While we applaud the VA for placing a priority on providing timely and accurate benefits to veterans and their families, we are hopeful that it will more aggressively implement a strategy to produce the quality, timely and consistent output that our veterans deserve. That is why we urge you to provide the VBA with the funding it desperately needs to continue taking these much-needed steps. It is the least we can do for those whom we owe so much, and to reassure future generations that a grateful nation will not forget them when their military service is complete.

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