House Republicans push for backlog commission

WASHINGTON —  Lawmakers unhappy with the continued claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs are now pushing for a new commission to find new solutions to the problem.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., are sponsoring a bill to create a 15-person panel to weigh in on the VA’s claims processing and evaluation. The commission would exist for 180 days, and offer a series of recommendations to more quickly get veterans their benefits payouts.

The move comes amid a flurry of bills from both parties aimed at the claims backlog, the number of benefits cases that have taken more than four months for VA workers to complete. As of this week, about 560,000 claims — roughly two-thirds of the entire pending caseload before the Veterans Benefits Administration — was considered overdue.

VA officials this week pointed out that the backlog total has dropped steadily for the last two months, and have promised that it will be eliminated over the next two years.

But lawmakers — in particular those on the right — have called for President Barack Obama to take a more active leadership role on the issue, and provide better results quicker.

The commission would be charged with “a comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the backlog of claims, an analysis of possible improvements to the procedures used to process such claims” and related matters. Congressional leaders, the White House, the Defense Department and VA officials would appoint members.

In a statement, Miller and McCarthy said the goal of the measure is to help veterans and hold the department accountable.

“Our veterans deserve the care they earned while protecting and defending our country, and continued failure by the VA cannot and will not be tolerated.” McCarthy said.

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