VA reforms must not limit options for veterans

Published by Mike Coffman

(Charles Dharapak/AP, File)


America owes a debt of honor and gratitude to our veterans. They deserve the very best our country can offer them, but for too long they have been receiving far less than that.


Among the lingering problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs is a flawed disability benefits system that — more often than not — creates unnecessarily long delays in getting benefits to the veterans who have so profoundly earned them. There is now an effort underway in Washington, D.C., which however well-intentioned, will make that already broken system even more dysfunctional.


Problems with the VA are nothing new, as witnessed throughout my time on the Committee on Veterans Affairs in the U.S. Congress. From the scandal in 2014 at a facility in Phoenix that falsified records in order to conceal egregious wait times to the myriad of problems encountered with the new VA hospital in Aurora which came in $1 billion over budget, I have worked to bring accountability to the VA when such outrages are brought to light.


Today, one of the worst issues plaguing the VA is the tremendous backlog of disability claims. Of the roughly 590,000 pending VA disability claims, more than 170,000 are older than 125 days. In other words, well over a third of claims have been languishing for more than 4 months. The problem is only expected to grow.


Navigating the VA benefits system is already an extraordinarily complex undertaking. Veterans can handle the process themselves or enlist the help of several outside actors ranging from veterans service organizations to VA accredited legal help to private consultants. However, the program itself can at times be complicated and have a backwards incentive system....


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