House approves Costello bill to streamline claims process for veterans seeking assistance through local VA facilities
The House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) introduced to establish “one-stop-shops” for veterans to seek assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Veteran Engagement Team (VET) Act, H.R. 3936, would pull VA employees out of the office and place them into local communities to help veterans in a one-on-one setting.
In a speech on the House floor, Costello said that the legislation is designed to help veterans navigate the VA’s complicated claims process.
“The VET Act aims to solve this problem and, in the process, reduce wait times, possible miscommunications and lost paperwork by taking VA employees out of the office and placing them in the community where they can provide area veterans with one-on-one assistance at Veteran Engagement Team events,” Costello said. “The events would be carried out at least 50 miles from any regional office, and the secretary would ensure that a sufficient number of physicians, veterans service representatives and other personnel are present to initiate, update and finalize the completion and adjudication of claims.”
Costello added that pro bono services would be provided at the events and that the VA would be instructed to coordinate with state and governments, non-profit organizations and private-sector entities to secure community venues for the events at little or no cost.
Additionally, veterans whose claims cannot be completed at the event would receive detailed instruction of the next steps to follow to complete it.
U.S Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, applauded the approval of veterans’ bills, including the VETS Act.
“I applaud the House’s actions (on Tuesday) to improve VA’s claims processing efforts and add additional transparency to the department’s construction operations,” Miller said. “These bills would help improve veterans’ experiences while encouraging a more functional and efficient VA, and I urge the Senate to consider them in short order.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) also took to the House floor to speak in support of Costello’s bill..
“Veteran Engagement Teams allow the Department of Veterans Affairs’ employees to meet one on one with veterans to help facilitate the claims process,” Roe said. “Veteran Engagement Teams bring veterans and VA claims processors and physicians to help facilitate the claims process. The VA is currently testing a similar program that has proven to be both popular and successful. Allowing veterans to talk with VA employees face-to-face helps to reduce confusion and frustration with the VA’s complicated claims process.”