With new PTSD rules in place, Tester pushes VA to improve claims processing

Senator warns top veterans officials to bolster process to prepare for claims increase

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today told top Veterans Affairs officials to redouble their efforts to improve veterans’ claims processing and to be prepared for an increase in the number of claims.

During a hearing on Capitol Hill, Tester warned VA officials that new rules, as well as the ongoing military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, will mean a steady increase in veterans’ claims.

Nationally, more than one third of veterans’ disability benefit claims have been under review for more than 125 days—the VA’s target for reviews.  Tester warned that further delays in processing are likely if changes are not made.

“This is an all hands on deck problem,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.  “And we cannot afford to miss out on a single idea.  The challenges are many.  The people who serve this nation deserve better."

The VA this week introduced the new rules for veterans seeking care for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a prevalent injury among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  Those veterans will no longer have to prove that they experienced a traumatic event during military combat—a requirement many veterans saw as unrealistic.

“Like all disability compensation claims, it’s critical that we get them done quickly and accurately,” Tester added.  “If we fall short on either front, we’re not keeping up our end of the bargain to take care of those who were injured while serving our country.  And shame on us if we fail.”

Video of Tester’s remarks at today’s hearing is available HERE.

Tester’s landmark Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act, was signed into law on May 5.  That bill, which improves health care for all veterans in Montana and across rural America, was supported by several national veterans’ organizations, including the Wounded Warrior Project, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Disabled American Veterans.