Davis Bill to Help Improve Veterans Claims Process Passes House
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) released the following statement after his bill to improve the veterans’ claims process passed the House today. Davis and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) introduced H.R. 5166, the WINGMAN Act in May. This bill is similar to legislation Davis announced at his Veterans Resource Fair in Springfield last August.
“As members of Congress, helping constituents with casework, or ensuring federal agencies are being responsive to the people we represent, is one of the most important parts of our job,” said Davis. “Unfortunately, not only is the VA unresponsive to many of our constituents, they are also one of the most difficult agencies to work with when we contact them on their behalf. This legislation will not solve the systemic problems plaguing the VA but it will help us hold the VA accountable and get answers for the veterans we are honored to represent.”
Click to download the above video.
The WINGMAN Act will grant certified congressional staff access to the files they already have permission to, but eliminates the burdensome step of having to use the VA as a middle-man to receive them. Advocates will be able to access the status of a pending claim, medical records, comp and pen records, rating decisions, statement of the case, supplementary statement of the case, notice of disagreement, and Form-9 files.
Text of Davis’ prepared floor remarks are as follow:
Carl, an Army veteran from Springfield, IL, couldn’t get a response from the VA to receive a cancer treatment through the VA choice program. After multiple communications, my office was finally able to get authorization from the VA.
Bette of Staunton, IL – the wife of a decorated Vietnam veteran who served his country for more a decade – waited over a year for an answer from the VA about benefits owed to her late husband. Finally, my office was successful in getting Bette, who was experiencing financial difficulty at the time, the accrued benefits owed to her husband.
Kenneth of Urbana, IL – who received a Bronze Star while serving in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan – was denied benefits due to missing a doctor’s examination because he was deployed at the time and the VA never rescheduled the appointment. He contacted my office and we worked with the VA to ensure his benefits were received.
Lawrence of Palmer, IL, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, simply wanted a copy of his medical records but never heard back from the VA. After several months, he reached out to my office and we were able to get them from the VA.
Another constituent of mine, recently asked my office for help after her husband, who was a veteran, passed away. She’s been waiting for six months for an answer from the VA. And now, my office continues to wait for a response from the VA.
These examples not only show the incompetence and unresponsiveness of the VA but they also show how important congressional offices are to getting answers veterans need and deserve.
Many times, when a veteran contacts their member of Congress for help, it’s as a last resort and they don’t know where else to turn.
Our caseworkers become the middle man between the veteran and the VA.
VA casework in my office remains highest in volume – we currently have 96 open cases and we’ve closed nearly 1,000 during my four years in office.
And ask almost any caseworker, and they will tell you that the VA is one of the most difficult federal agencies to get a response from.
It’s completely unacceptable that weeks or months pass before advocates are able to receive the files they’ve requested to help our veterans.
HR 5166, the WINGMAN Act, simply allows certified constituent advocates access to certain VA files in order to check the status and progress of claims.
This legislation will not solve the systemic problems plaguing the VA but it will help us hold the VA accountable and get answers for the veterans we are honored to represent.
I want to thank my colleague Representative Yoho for working with me on this important issue and I urge my colleagues to help us help veterans by supporting this bill.
I yield back.